File photo of fire boat response crews battling the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon off Louisiana (Photo : Reuters)
Sometimes, even the best intentions breed toxic results.
Scientists have discovered that a commonplace oil dispersant used to clean up spills, such as the 2010 Gulf of Mexico incident, in fact multiplies the deadliness of the substance by 52 times, reports NBC News. Georgia Tech biologist Terry Snell explains that Corexit, the dispersant in question, "makes [crude oil] more toxic to the planktonic food chain," in an interview with LiveScience.
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Researchers published their study of Corexit in the journal Environmental Pollution. Clemson University environmental toxicologist Stephen Klaine asserts, "This is an important study that adds badly needed data to help us better understand the effects of oil spills and oil spill remediation strategies, such as the use of dispersants...Species differences in the sensitivity to any toxic compounds, including the ones in this discussion, can be huge."
During the 2010 oil spill crisis, "The levels in the gulf were toxic, seriously toxic. That probably put a big dent in the planktonic food web for some extended period of time, but nobody really made the measurements to figure out the impact," notes Snell. "This is a cautionary tale that we need to do the science before the emergency happens so we can make decisions that are fully informed. In this case, the Corexit is simply there to make the oil disperse and go out of sight. But out of sight doesn't mean it's safe in regard to the food web."