Ban Corexit and chemical dispersants

Ban Corexit and chemical dispersants

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Lesley Pacey started this petition to Environmental Protection Agency and

We demand that Corexit and all chemical dispersants be banned in the U.S. and immediately removed from the National Contingency Plan for oil spill cleanup. We also demand that science, human health and environmental sustainability shape all future oil spill cleanup operations from this day forward. In addition, we expect all first responders and oil field workers exposed to chemical toxins be properly protected with adequate training and HAZMAT gear.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the EPA allowed BP to spray an  unprecedented quantity of chemical dispersant - nearly 2 million gallons of Corexit 9527A and Corexit 9500A - on the surface of the oil slick and at the ruptured wellhead. Despite scientific studies that proved otherwise, BP and the EPA maintained that the chemical dispersant was "low toxicity" and an entire Gulf Coast population of cleanup workers, residents and tourists were exposed. Even before the 2010 disaster, Corexit had been banned in the UK because of its potential health effects to cleanup workers. But the Gulf Coast was told that Corexit was "as safe as Dawn dish washing liquid," and workers report being denied personal protective gear. Then in 2012, a study published in The Journal of Environmental Pollution showed that dispersants used to clean up oil spills made the oil 52 times more toxic than oil alone. By then, exposed populations were already suffering acute health problems coined as BP Syndrome, according to the Government Accountability Project (GAP). An estimated 95 percent of project witnesses reported that they continued to experience spill-related health problems and more than 50% living in affected areas reported that their children and/or grandchildren’s health had deteriorated. Select effects included: blood in urine; heart palpitations; kidney & liver damage; migraines; multiple chemical sensitivity, including hyper-allergies to common household cleaners; neurological damage resulting in severe IQ loss and memory loss; hyper-allergies to processed foods, causing extreme weight loss; exhaustion and loss of stamina for routine activities; respiratory system & nervous system damage; seizures; skin lesions throughout the body; and temporary paralysis, according to GAP. More recently, GAP has reported that victims also are experiencing chronic health effects from chemical exposure, such as reproductive damage and various cancers. The National Institutes of Health also has reported several long-term health issues among oil spill workers including lung and cardiac damage. Blood test results from a majority of GAP interviewees showed alarmingly high levels of chemical exposure – to Corexit and oil – that correlated with health effects. Even so, Corexit is the go-to plan for future oil spill disasters. 

About Corexit: Corexit is a product line of dispersants that emulsify crude oil into minuscule droplets that are heavier than water and tend to sink into the ocean. The idea is to prevent oil slicks from reaching shorelines, estuaries, and other coastal waterways, with their fragile and sometimes threatened ecosystems. Once oil is treated, typically by aerial spraying, the slick breaks down and quickly spreads across the surface and down the water column, as tiny beads of goo begin to sink. Wave action and wind turbulence degrade the oil further, though evaporation concentrates the toxins left behind, especially dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Soon after the Deepwater blowout, BP snatched up one-third of the world supply of dispersants, namely Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A, according to The New York Times. Of the two, Corexit EC9527 is more toxic. Its main component, 2-butoxyethanol, has been identified as one of the agents that caused liver, kidney, lung, nervous system, and blood disorders among cleanup crews in Alaska following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. According to media reports, nearly all of the individuals in those crews have died, with the average age of death around 50. Herring fisheries in the area were decimated, and other marine species are still in stages of recovery. Corexit 9527 is toxic to blood and organs. “WARNING: Eye and skin irritant,” reads a safety data sheet on the Nalco website. “Repeated or excessive exposure to butoxyethanol may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver. Harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin, and if swallowed. Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing. Do not take internally. Use with adequate ventilation. Wear suitable protective clothing.” In case of accidental release, handlers should “restrict access to area as appropriate until clean-up operations are complete.” Human health hazards are “acute,” according to the safety data sheet, and potential toxicological impact is “high.” But that is only for people who come into unprotected contact with it. That’s why Nalco claims that, “based on our recommended product application and personal protective equipment, the potential human exposure is: Low.” Cleanup crews not only lacked “personal protective equipment” to guard against Corexit, but when they asked for respirators, BP officials threatened termination and told them it would be bad publicity to suggest the spill was toxic, according to the Government Accountability Project.

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