Sunday, May 16, 2010

Double Jeopardy?

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is an environmental disaster, and cleaning it up takes more than simply plugging a leak and mopping it up. Photo galleries try to capture the extent and degree of the damage. But what of the hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals being dumped into the Gulf as a chaser? The New York Times has a piece about this necessary evil.
Even in the best cases, dispersants are applied in what might be termed a lose-lose strategy. Scientists make the calculation that it is better to have the ocean filled with low concentrations of the dispersant chemicals — which are in themselves mild to moderate poisons — than to have dense oil on the surface or washing up onshore, places where it is most likely to harm wildlife.
Companies are protective of their dispersant formulas, and in some cases these chemicals have had their approval pulled in other countries. Speakeasy Science has some details on a few of the chemicals in use, based on MSDS information. Right now, this is preferable to a vast, suffocating oil slick but it will be important to continue to monitor the area long after the clean-up is complete. As the NYT describes it, this is "one of the largest and most aggressive experiments with chemical dispersants in the history of the country, and perhaps the world."


Anonymous Coward said...

They need to nuke the leak like the Russians do.

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