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Ingredients of Controversial Dispersants Used on Gulf Spill Are Secrets No More

2 min read

Ingredients of Controversial Dispersants Used on Gulf Spill Are Secrets No More

U.S. EPA has quietly released a full list of ingredients in the two controversial dispersants BP PLC is using to combat the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, following weeks of complaints from members of Congress and public health advocates that the dispersant manufacturer had kept its complete formula a secret from the public.

The mysterious appearance on EPA’s website of the specific chemical components in Corexit 9500 and 9527 — more than 1.1 million gallons of which have been sprayed in Gulf since the disaster began — came as a surprise to environmental groups as well as to Nalco Holding Co., the producer of the dispersants. Nalco spokesman Charlie Pajor said the company was first informed about the full release of Corexit ingredients by Greenwire, not EPA.

Nalco’s reaction to the lack of notification from the agency is “beside the point,” Pajor added. “We did share the complete information with EPA and relevant government agencies. Clearly we didn’t want to share this information with our competitors, but we certainly understand the need for information sharing.”

Three ingredients of the two Corexit formulas were already available on material safety data sheets that outline the human health risks of using the dispersants in the workplace. Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent.

Corexit 9500, described by Pajor as the “sole product” Nalco has manufactured for the Gulf since late April, contains propylene glycol and light petroleum distillates, a type of chemical refined from crude oil. Nalco had previously declined to identify the third hazardous substance in the 9500 formula, but EPA’s website reveals it to be dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, a detergent and common ingredient in laxatives.

Several members of Congress had pressed for EPA to require the disclosure of all Corexit ingredients since Nalco first staked a proprietary claim to the information. One of those lawmakers, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), released a statement to “commend the EPA” for its under-the-radar move.

“This is a step in the right direction, but we still have…

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