Scientists have raised yet another alarm about the dispersants BP has used in unprecedented amounts to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. According to GulfLive.com, researchers have found an oil and dispersant mix beneath the shells of post-larval blue crabs. The discovery is one of the first signs that the BP disaster is impacting the Gulf of Mexico food chain.
More than 1.8 million gallons of dispersant chemicals have been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in attempts to break up the oil moving in from the Deepwater Horizon’s broken well. Concerns about the dispersant being used, Corexit 9500, prompted the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mandate that BP switch to a less-toxic alternative, but BP never complied.
Ultimately, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson order the agency to conduct its own testing of Corexit, along with seven dispersants from its approved list. According to the EPA, those tests showed Corexit to be slightly less toxic than the manufacturer’s data had suggested, so BP was allowed to continue using it.
Now it appears that dispersants have broken the oil up into droplets tiny enough to easily enter the food chain. According to GulfLive.com, scientists fro the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Center for Fisheries Research and Development said tiny droplets are visible under the transparent shells of 2-millimeter-sized post-larval blue crabs collected in Mississippi’s Davis Bayou.
To confirm their findings, the scientists sent some crabs to a testing firm in Pensacola, Florida, which also found evidence of hydrocarbons.
In addition to blue crabs, the droplets were also seen in fiddler crab larvae.
The post-larval blue crabs are vital to Gulf Coast fisheries, GulfLive said, as they serve as food for all types of fish and shore birds.
One of the scientists involved in the study also told GulfLive.com that there is a good chance that many young crabs will be lost because oil is covering so much of the ground 41 percent – where the larvae are.
According to a report on Huffington Post, other scientists involved in the study from Louisiana’s Tulane University used infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the droplets. In doing so, they discovered the chemical marker for Corexit. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings.
“Corexit is in the water column, just as we thought, and it is entering the bodies of animals. And it’s probably having a lethal impact there,” Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, told Huffington Post.