By Edoardo Zandonà
The dispersants British Petroleum used to help control the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer may be even more toxic than the oil itself, a recent report by Al Jazeera says. Several residents in the Gulf, who have been exposed to the dispersants, are dealing with a large variety of chemical-related intoxications, which are having increasingly serious effects on their health.
The symptoms the residents are reporting range from respiratory disorders to internal haemorrhages. Since the middle of last summer, 56 people from the counties of Mobile and Baldwin in Alabama had to receive treatment for intoxications linked with the disaster. Accounts of similar illnesses have also been reported in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, the states who were mainly affected by the spill.
Bob Naman, chemist at the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, conducted studies on Corexit, the dispersant used by BP. He explained that its higher toxicity is caused by the chemical compounds the dispersant create when mixed with crude oil. “I’m scared of what I’m finding,” he added. “These cyclic compounds intermingle with the Corexit and generate other cyclic compounds that aren’t good. Many have double bonds, and many are on the EPA’s danger list. This is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.”
BP admitted to have used at least 1.9 million gallons of Corexit, which is banned in several countries, in order to sink and break up the oil on the sea surface. The dispersant was sprayed all over the contaminated area since last May despite concerns about its toxicity raised by EPA.
According to Al Jazeera, the number of cases of chemical intoxication across the Gulf Coast is growing. Residents report several shocking symptoms after exposure to the chemical, such as urine discoloration, skin rashes and copious bleeding. Many people stated they started to feel better as soon as they moved in non-contaminated areas.
“What I’m seeing are toxified people who have been chemically poisoned,” says Trisha Springstead, a nurse in Brooksville, Florida. “They have sore throats, respiratory problems, neurological problems, lesions, sores, and ulcers. These people have been poisoned and they are dying.”
Dr. Riki Ott, a toxicologist and marine biologist, explained: “The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber. Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known.”
“People are already dying from this,” Dr. Ott added. “I don’t think we’ll have to wait years to see the effects like we did in Alaska, people are dropping dead now.”