Dispersants and Oil in the Gulf: Serious Environmental Impacts

There are indications that the massive use of dispersants may have significant ecological effects.

There seems to be no doubt that history will record that the use of dispersants was good for BP, making it harder to tell how much oil was spilled, and reducing the short-term visible impact. But what’s less clear is whether it will turn out to have been good for the Gulf.

In part due to the1.8 million gallons of dispersant that BP used, a lot of the estimated 200 million or more gallons of oil that spewed out of the blown well remains under the surface of the Gulf in plumes of tiny toxic droplets. And it’s short- and long-term effects could be profound.

Fish, shrimp and crab larvae, which float around in the open seas, are considered the most likely to die on account of exposure to the subsea oil plumes. There are fears, for instance, that an entire year’s worth of bluefin tuna larvae may have perished.

But this latest discovery suggests that it’s not just larvae at risk from the subsurface droplets. It’s also the animals that feed on them.

The are many scientists that are worried that the dispersants will have lethal effects on the sea life, but this is not yet proven.  Probably only many years from now will we know the extent of the impacts on the ecology of the Gulf.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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