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According to Nalco's Material Safety Data Sheet for COREXIT® EC9500A , the Corexit 9500 A dispersant which is being sprayed by the millions of liters from Hercules Transport planes flying over the Deepwater Horizon spill consists of 10 - 30 % light, hydrotreated petroleum distillates; 10 - 30% of a trade secret organic sulfonic acid salt; and 1 - 5% of propylene glycol.

The underwater dispersant, COREXIT® EC9527A , contains 30 - 60% 2-Butoxyethanol instead of the petroleum distillates, along with the same two ingredients found in the Corexit 9500 A.

The full formulation, without any secrets held back, has been disclosed to government authorities, who are overseeing the use of dispersants in the spill response. But what do we know about the chemicals which are disclosed publicly?

2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) is used mainly in paints and surface coatings (predominantly water based decorative and industrial products), followed by cleaning products (especially degreasing or multi-purpose products) and inks, and as a solvent in hair dyes. The 2-BE in these products is basically all released to the environment, by evaporation in the case of surface coatings and to wastewater streams in most other cases. The OECD estimates that 200,000 to 500,000 tons of 2-BE is produced annually.

The chemical does not bioaccumulate and biodegrades rapidly in sewage treatment plants, and therefore can be commonly found in cleaners advertised as "green". However, there is documented occurrences of groundwater contamination occurring when 2-BE is disposed of in landfills, where it cannot biodegrade as effectively.

It causes reversible irritation to eyes and respiratory tract upon exposure. 2-BE is not considered toxic, but it is ranked officially as "harmful" by European Union authorities. 2-BE can be absorbed through the skin. It is a member of a chemical family known as "glycol ethers," and some of the fears about 2-BE may arise because its smaller siblings 2-methoxyethanol and 2-ethoxyethanol have been shown to cause testicular degeneration. Substantial testing of 2-BE has not shown such effects; in fact, it shows effects on fertility and reproductive toxicity only when exposure levels are so high that other toxic effects are triggered. With sufficient studies completed that the OECD closed demands for additional testing, there is no evidence supporting carcinogenic nor mutagenic effects.

The first critical effect of 2-BE is haematotoxicity, the destruction of red blood cells. Humans are less susceptible to this effect than other species (for example rats are ten times more sensitive than humans). Because 2-BE is quickly eliminated (half-life in blood of 40 - 80 minutes, and half-life until excretion in urine of 3 - 6 hours), there is a low risk of enough of the chemical building up to reach haematotoxic levels.

Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is used mainly in resins (26%) and antifreeze or de-icing fluids (22%), but the US EPA estimates that 18% of the PG used in the US goes into food, drug, and cosmetic uses. Other uses include liquid detergents (11%), pet food (3%), and tobacco (5%). Production in the US and Europe alone exceeds 920,000 tons.

Propylene glycol is so non-toxic that you could eat at least 2 to 13 grams per kg of body weight per day with no observable effects. ( Author's note: a reader has asked us to point out that Ethylene Glycol is also often used in antifreeze products. Ethylene Glycol is poisonous, possibly deadly. )

Organic Sulfonic Acid Salt
The real problem with knowing how hazardous Corexit products might be lies in the confidentiality protection granted to the manufacturers of chemical products. The main active ingredient of the Corexit is given only by its generic chemical name.

Sulfonic acid salts are widely used by the detergents industry. Alkylbenzene sulfonic acids are the most common members of this chemical family, beloved for their low cost, detergent performance, and biodegradability. Here we are talking about truly huge quantities of chemicals produced, used and disposed of annually. For example, over 1 million tons of linear alkylbenzene sulfonic acids (LAS) are produced annually. 78 - 97% of that goes straight into the environment via the wash cycle.

These chemicals are regarded as being of low concern, because they biodegrade very rapidly, especially in wastewater treatment plants. This facade of eco-friendliness masks a more significant issue: many organic sulfonic acid salts are fairly toxic to the aquatic environment, and can be especially disturbing to cell membranes of single-cell and other simple creatures. A 2005 study of dispersant use (German, pdf) for promoting biodegradation in marine oil spills found that the toxic effects of the dispersants may deter the very organisms that are trying to eat up all that nasty spilled oil.

Unfortunately, the US system allows EPA to gain 90% of its funding from oil giants so it will protect them and their associates rather than the people suffering illnesses, having miscarriages and dying from slow-kill toxins in increasing numbers due to aerial spraying of poisons, burning toxic oil and the still gushing oil.

James C Fox, the filmmaker in Louisiana recently interviewed on Intel Hub Radio, released footage evidencing the toxicity. The footage, now on Youtube (below), includes his team collecting water samples on Gulf oil explosion Day 70, before the police state crackdown in the area. Fox's tested samples reveal that just Propylene Glycon from Corexit dispersant in the water is approximately 150 times the toxic level for fish.

The individual who analyzed the samples under anonymity stated, "The level of Corexit in the water is about 150 higher than toxic level for fish... and that's just the Propylene Glycon.

"You do not need to see the oil to be poisoned with Corexit because the Corexit is in the water, not just the oil."

Likewise, you do not need to smell it for it to be poisoning you, as Dr. Mark Sircus urges people to understand.

The water sample tester stated, "People breathing this are going to have problems, "which is why Corexit is banned in other countries.

"It reminds me of after 911 when the EPA told the people at Ground Zero that there was no asbestos in the air when there was."

In regards to the Exxon spill in Alaska the Gulf catastrophe is infinitely greater, estimates up to three or more Exxon Valdez incidents (using Exxon's figure) a week until capped. Yet some experts think another seabed hole (a few miles from the Macondo well) is emitting 100,000 or more barrels daily, greatly compounding the growing disaster, added to more by numerous small leaks, five or more alone in BP's Macondo well - the “well from hell,” according to some.

Geologist Chris Landau has told Petroleum World that “BP has drilled into a deep-core oil volcano that cannot be stopped, regardless of the horizontal drills the company claims will stop the oil plume in August.”

Ocean Energy Institute Founder Matthew Simmons is another, telling Bloomberg we've killed the Gulf of Mexico - its $2.2 trillion economy by depleting oxygen, decimating aquatic life and poisoning the food chain. We've also created a public health crisis, problems showing up first in cleanup workers experiencing dizziness, fainting, nausea, nosebleeds, vomiting, coughing, headaches, stomach upset, and difficulty breathing, compounded by heat, fatigue, hydrocarbon smell, and combined toxicity of oil and dispersants.

Besides other toxins, crude oil contains benzene, in even small amounts associated with leukemia, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, other serious blood and immune system diseases, ventricular fibrillation, congestive gastritis, toxic gastritis, pyloric stenosis, myalgia, kidney damage, skin irritation and burns, swelling and edema, vascular congestion in the brain, and lethal central nervous system depression among others, depending on length and degree of exposure.

The EPA's safe level is 4 parts per billion (ppb), yet Gulf levels reach or top 3,000, smelled hundreds of miles away, meaning residents inhaling fumes are ingesting dangerous toxins, raising their risk for serious future health problems, some potentially lethal.

Long-term exposure to benzene, ethylbenzene, xylene, toluene and other solvents may cause infertility, low-birth weight babies, miscarriages, decreased cognitive function, psychomotor coordination problems, weakened immunity, and increased risk of depression, insomnia, certain cancers, and other diseases.

In their book Generations at Risk, Ted Schettler, Gina Solomon, Maria Valenti and Annette Huddle reviewed the physical properties of solvents, enabling humans to ingest them saying:

“They evaporate in air at room temperature and are therefore easily inhaled; they penetrate the skin easily; and they cross the placenta, sometimes accumulating at higher doses in the fetus. In addition, many solvents (like benzene) enter breast fat and are found in breast milk, sometimes at higher concentrations than in maternal blood.”

“Solvents contaminating drinking water enter the body through skin absorption and inhalation in the shower, as well as through drinking water. In fact, the total exposure from taking a ten minute shower in contaminated water is greater than….drinking two quarts of the same water. Solvents are generally short-lived in the human body, lingering for no more than several days.” When longer-term, however, much greater harm results.

Exposure can cause “a range of ill effects, including damage to the skin, liver, central nervous system, lungs, and kidneys. Certain solvents can inhibit blood cell production.” Many are carcinogenic. Glycol ethers can cause birth defects, testicular damage, infertility, and failed pregnancies. Exposed men experience low sperm counts, women reproductive problems, everyone potential serious future health problems.

After the 2002 Galicia, Spain Prestige oil spill and 2007 South Korean Hebei Spirit one, fishermen and cleanup workers suffered from respiratory and central nervous system problems, even genetic damage. After the Exxon Valdez disaster, BP's then medical director, Dr. Robert Rigg warned:

“It is a known fact that neurological changes (brain damage), skin disorders, (including cancer), liver and kidney damage, cancer of the other organs, and medical complications - secondary to exposure to working unprotected (or inadequately protected) - can and will occur (in) workers exposed to crude oil and other petrochemical by-products.” Short-term symptoms and complaints may be early warnings of serious long-term harm.

Public health specialists Ellen-Marie Whelan and Lesley Russell from the Center for American Progress said:

“We know that Exxon Valdez cleanup workers faced average oil mist exposure that was twelve times higher than government-approved limits, and those who washed the beaches with hot water experienced a maximum exposure 400 times higher than these limits. Many of those workers suffered subsequent health problems, and in 1989, 1,811 workers filed compensation claims, primarily for respiratory system damage, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.” Today, we face “what some are calling the worst-ever ecological disaster without an appropriate public health response in place.”

Whelan and Russell also cited the dangers of “controlled burns,” saying “When we aerosolize those oil droplets, they can be breathed in, which can be very damaging to the lungs, and can” irritate the eyes, throat, and cause nausea and vomiting. Early May EPA air tests in the greater Venice, LA area showed toxin levels far exceeding safe standards onshore - 100 - 1,000-fold for volatile organic carbons (VOC), including hydrogen sulphide, and other emitted chemicals.

According to Ott and other experts, if air, land and water toxicity exceeds safe levels, Washington is obligated to evacuate residents, as it would ahead of a dangerous hurricane. “The current situation is a disaster in the making,” so far covered up and unaddressed.

Chemical Dispersants - Compounding the Disaster

According to the EPA:

“Dispersants have not been used extensively in the United States because of possible long term environment effects, difficulties with timely and effective application, disagreement among scientists and research date about their environmental effects, effectiveness, and toxicity concerns.”

Extensive use of them (two million or more gallons so far) is a giant uncontrolled human/wildlife/ecological experiment, especially combined with oil.

Oil is toxic at 11 parts per million (ppm) while Corexit 9500 at only 2.61 ppm, and Corexit 9527 even less, the EPA calling it an acute health hazard. Its main ingredient, 2-butoxyethanol, is a dangerous neurotoxin pesticide known to cause cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, genetic mutations, blood disorders, and damage to kidneys, liver and central nervous system.

It's not known if Corexit 9500 contains 2-butoxyethanol. Science Corps.org lists it among its toxic ingredients. For competitive reasons, Nalco, its producer, keeps its formula secret, but what's disclosed is extremely toxic, including dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS), causing severe eye and skin irritation as well as diarrhoea, intestinal bloating, cramps and nausea when ingested, including by inhaling fumes. It's also cytotoxic, especially to liver cells.

Corexit also contain arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, cyanide, and other heavy metals. Dispersing oil with it increases toxicity 11-fold, suggesting a calamitous looming public health disaster, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of area residents and in other states if toxins spread by rains. More on that below.

Containing solvents, surfactants (surface active agents), and other toxins, dispersants make oil more water soluble by breaking its surface tension. Once done, it sinks, stays suspended in deep water, and collects on the seabed where shellfish and other organisms feed, in turn becoming food for other sea life, then humans.

What fish and animals eat, people do, including all toxins they ingest. It's why the National Academy of Sciences warns about “insufficient understanding of the fate (and effects) of dispersed oil in aquatic ecosystems,” perhaps destroying them entirely, making Gulf seafood unsafe to eat and dozens of area communities hazardous to live in.

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