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As arguments rage over how to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an examination of toxicity tests reveals flaws in the data used to determine the safety of dispersants.
So far BP has used a dispersant called Corexit EC9500A made by Nalco Energy Services of Sugar Land, Texas. But on 20 May, the EPA ordered BP to find a less toxic alternative. The company quickly responded, stating that only five dispersants met the EPA's requirements. Only one, called Sea Brat #4, made by Alabaster of Pasadena, Texas, was stockpiled by BP. This contained a chemical that would degrade into nonylphenol; this is a hormone disrupter likely to harm the reproductive systems of marine organisms. "BP continues to believe that Corexit EC9500A remains the best alternative," the company concluded. Since then, there has been an uneasy stand-off, with the EPA telling BP on 26 May to stop surface spraying, and limit its subsea use of dispersant to a maximum of some 57,000 litres on any given day.