After the spill in the Gulf, British Petroleum used Corexit to disperse the oil in the ocean. Corexit is harmful to sea life, so many people protest the use of this compound. BP claims that Corexit is the safest dispersant it can use. So I decided to see if I could find any alternatives to Corexit. There are safer dispersants available, but they do not have EPA approval, although they have approval in Europe.
The IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute provides a list of 25 chemical dispersants which various countries authorize for use cleaning up oil spills. The two dispersants which have seen widespread use in the Gulf of Mexico, Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, receive approval in several countries, while other dispersants have less widespread authorization. Two other versions of Corexit, Corexit 9550 and Corexit CRX-8, are only approved for use in Canada as of 2001.
Dispersants do vary in toxicity. A list compiled by Cornell University includes a study which compares the toxic effects of several dispersants on corals. The study concludes that Slickgone, which is approved for use in Norway and Great Britain, has the least effect on coral. In ascending toxicity, the other dispersants in the study are Petrotech, Inipol and Bioreico, Emulgel, and Dispolene. Inipol and Dispolene are approved for use in several counries according to the IVL, and the other dispersants are not mentioned on the list.
A visit to Dasic shows that the company is aware of problems with dispersant toxicity and has designed its dispersants to address these issues. Of the two Dasic Slickgones on the IVL list, Dasic claims it did not maintain approval in Britain for Slickgone LTSW, and still has British approval for Slickgone NS. Dasic mentions that it also makes Slickgone EW, a newer product version. Of note, there is also a freshwater version of Dasic Slickgone, which is important in case the oil spreads up the Missisippi. Dasic mentions that freshwater dispersants are less commonly available. According to the Bonn Agreement, Belgium also uses Slickgone NS.
BP does have stocks of Slickgone. According to the Epoch Times, BP has ordered 150 metric tons of Dasic Slickgone, and claims that it hasn’t been delivered yet because it doesn’t have EPA approval. The IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute list does not show that Dasic Slickgone is approved for use in either the USA or Canada. EPA approved dispersants appear on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule, along with surface washing agents and bioremediation agents which the EPA has approved. The Epoch Times article also mentions that Norway does not allow the use of Corexit 9500 in the North Sea because it is considered to be too toxic.