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Markey questions chemical dispersant use

By Juliet Eilperin

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is asking the Obama administration to provide more details about the effect on marine life of chemical dispersants it is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal government has already dumped 580,000 gallons of chemical dispersants into the gulf in an effort to break up the oil leaking from the damaged BP well, and late last week it approved the use of dispersants deep below the surface to combat the spill closer to the source.

Some environmental groups have questioned the widespread use of these chemicals, noting that little research has been conducted into their use at those depths. Federal officials reviewed the analysis of three rounds of testing before approving the use of Corexit at depth, though initial testing was either incomplete or inconclusive.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Markey--who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is conducting a probe into the spill--warns, "The release of hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico could be an unprecedented, large and aggressive experiment on our oceans, and requires careful oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other appropriate federal agencies."

Markey questions the potential toxicity of trademarked formulation being used, called Corexit, and whether the chemical could be contributing to new reports of large undersea oil plumes suspended thousands of feet below the water's surface.

"The information regarding the chemical composition, efficacy and toxicity of the dispersants currently being used is scarce," he writes, adding that some formulations of Corexit were banned in Britain more than a decade ago due to test results showing they had harmful effects on sea life.

Markey also asks the EPA whether these chemicals could accumulate in marine creatures over time, what human health impacts could result from eating Gulf seafood and whether federal officials had envisioned a scenario in which the use of dispersants created underwater oil plumes that could damage the ecosystem.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  May 17, 2010; 11:58 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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