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Your Environment. Your Health.

Publication Detail

Title: A review of the toxicity of chemical dispersants.

Authors: Wise, James; Wise Sr, John Pierce

Published In Rev Environ Health, (2011)

Abstract: Chemical dispersants are a mixture of various surfactants and solvents. Most dispersants are proprietary, and the complete composition is not often public knowledge. Chemical dispersants used for the cleanup and containment of crude oil toxicity became a major concern after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. During the crisis, millions of liters of chemical dispersants (Corexit 9527 and 9500) were used--the largest known application of dispersants in the field. As of February 2011, 38 peer-reviewed articles were available on the toxicity of 35 different chemical dispersants. Nalco, BP, Shell, and Total Special Fluids manufacture a variety of chemical dispersants. Most notably, Nalco manufactures Corexit 9527 and 9500, and 19 miscellaneous dispersants are manufactured by others. Most studies examined the lethality of the dispersants. Several nonlethal end points were considered, including the effect on predator/prey recognition, enzyme activity changes, effects on hatchability, and the threshold for bradycardia. The animals studied included Daphnia (small planktonic crustaceans), anemones, corals, crustaceans, starfish, mollusks, fish, birds, and rats. Studies in birds and mammals are distinctly lacking. The variety of chemical dispersants, the variability in test methods, and the lack of distinct species overlap between studies make it difficult to compare and deduce which dispersant is most toxic and which is least. Here, we offer some attempt at comparing Corexit 9527 and 9500 (because these have had the largest field application), but significantly more research is needed before clear conclusions can be drawn.

PubMed ID: 22435326 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Animals; Aquatic Organisms/drug effects; Birds; Chemical Industry; Fishes; Mammals; Petroleum Pollution*; Solvents/toxicity; Surface-Active Agents/toxicity*; Time Factors; Toxicity Tests/methods*; Water Pollutants, Chemical/toxicity*

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