BP: We Have to Use Corexit Because No One Tests for Endocrine Disruptors

As Scarecrow reported on Saturday, BP told EPA it would not switch from Corexit to another less toxic dispersant. BP admits that five approved dispersants are less toxic than Corexit; it dismisses four of those because the manufacturers cannot get enough product in place immediately.

BP does not have a stockpile of the other dispersants that meet the criteria in the May 19th Directive [of being less toxic], and the manufacturers tell us that they cannot produce the requested volume for 10 to 14 days or more.

So what about the fifith dispersant, Sea Brat #4, which is both less toxic and–BP tells us–and which BP has 100,000 gallons in its inventory? BP explains that Sea Brat #4 may degrade into an endocrine disruptor.

Sea Brat #4 contains a small amount of a chemical that may degrade to a nonylphenol (NP). The class of NP chemicals have been identified by various government agencies as potential endocrine disruptors, and as chemicals that may persist in the environment for a period of years. The manufacturer has not had the opportunity to evaluate this product for these potential effects, and BP has not had the opportunity to conduct independent tests to evaluate this issue either. BP learned of this issue after it applied to use Sea Brat #4 at the incident site.

With this additional information in hand, we believe it would be prudent to evaluate the potential NP issue more carefully before EPA or the FOSC require Sea Brat to be used at the incident site, and in particular, before it is applied underwater near the ocean floor.

BP latches onto a reality of the great test tube that is our everyday environment to explain why it is not using a competitors product. And the concern about the effect of possible endocrine disruptors is real. Endocrine disruptors have been associated with a range of biological problems, particularly with normal reproduction and cancers.

But that sort of raises a larger point, doesn’t it? These chemicals have been approved for use by the EPA but haven’t been tested to see if they degrade into endocrine disruptors. Not only does that mean we can’t choose a less toxic dispersant in time of emergency. But it also means this stuff is already being used, with no clear idea of the consequences of its use.

Of course, all this doesn’t answer the other question: whether we should be using dispersants at all, or whether BP is using it just to hide the effects of the spill underwater.

53 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    Just disgusting. Faced with the known much higher short term toxicity data, BP argues for sticking with the dispersant in which they have a financial interest because of a potential secondary effect from the one that is known to be less toxic. How much longer are these Ferengi going to be left in charge of the disaster?

    • emptywheel says:

      I do hope you click through to the doc and check BP’s math. If I remember correctly, they’re using different toxicity numbers than Nadler was. BP’s arguing that Corexit is only slightly less effective than the Sea Brat.

      But I could be wrong bc my brain has been mushed by a nasty head cold.

    • ghostof911 says:

      GS cashing in on disaster capitalism. Why is anyone surprised?

      It’s a shame we can’t execute one BP exec per day until the leak is stopped. You can bet it would be stopped in a heartbeat.

      • kindGSL says:

        Since we are seeing at least a possible way they could be benefitting monetarily from this, shouldn’t we at least entertain the notion that this was done on purpose?

        The only reason I ask is because it fits the Cheney/Rummy pattern. They do things on purpose that kill Americans. I call it treason and I am not the only one. Check out this movie. Warning, it will make you very angry if you have any loved ones in or care about our military,

        Beyond Treason

    • JTMinIA says:

      I believe that BP predicts that Corexit will soon be banned by everyone. Whatever amount of it that they are sitting on when it is banned will be a total loss. But if they use it now, then can actually deduct it as an expense (reducing BP’s taxes) while also making a profit from it via the subsidiary. Fricken brilliant.

      Prediction: if they burn through all of what has been made, they will suddenly be OK with using other dispersants. The key is to use it all up ASAP before it’s banned everywhere.

      • bmaz says:

        Yeah, that is what I have been saying all along – they are selling it to themselves and undoubtedly deducting or flat out offsetting the entire amount under some type of disaster abatement cost allowance.

      • KrisAinCA says:

        I have two questions in regard to your theory here, because it makes sense.

        1)If BP is attempting to burn through stockpiles to avoid being caught with unusable product, why are they having manufacturers step up production of this product? Is it because they’re confident they’ll have enough forewarning of any ban that they’ll be able to get rid of it all, so they’re just making hay while the sun shines, so to speak?

        2) If the use of Corexit is banned in Britain, and British Petroleum is a British company, are there possible legal complications arising from their use of Corexit?

        • Synoia says:


          Only in the UK and the seas around the UK. The UK has not claimed jurisdiction for waters off N America (especially below the 49th parallel) since about 1776.

          Even though the UK ensured the US had a White House after 1812.

          Something about Revolting Colonists comes to mind…

          That “Special Relationship” is so very special…

          • KrisAinCA says:

            I understand that they have no jurisdiction over our waters. I was just wondering if the ban extending to companies within the UK being able to use the product, or if it only covered the use of the product within UK’s waters.

    • Hmmm says:

      To echo your GS thread, I certainly hope somebody’s been keeping an eye on whomsoever may have been shorting BP throughout this entire adventure. The universe of possible perverse incentives to exacerbate the crisis seems practically unbounded here.

  2. TarheelDem says:

    Lest we forget about the war over EPA in the Bush administration, remember that Christine Todd Whitman quit rather than can some studies. And the Bushies in an “economy move” started shutting down EPA’s internal libraries. We have bureaucratic inertia to thank for as much of EPA surviving as did, but the rebuilding has only just begun. It is highly likely that more detailed studies of these chemicals were shelved by the Cheney administration looking out for its industry friends.

    • kindGSL says:

      Have they covered up the selling of mad cow disease infected beef to school lunch programs?

      I blogged about it years ago, they have had plenty of time to cover it up. I called my school district when I found out about it. Oh yeah, they had already known for years about the risk. They made sure it wasn’t used in OUR school district.

      I immediately knew what districts wouldn’t be so clever. I call it ethnic cleansing. I think the Cheney gang targets hispanic and other Native Americans for extinction fully on purpose.

      The timing of this ‘accident’ is also very suspect, 4/20, especially if you think it was a case of eco terrorism and done fully on purpose.

  3. Jim White says:

    Note how BP is gaming the system here:

    1) Corexit EC 9500A fails to meet the criteria EPA set forth for the change. EPA said to switch to a dispersant with an LC50 (in ppm) at 96 hours for Menidia of greater than 32 or at 18 hours for Mysidposis of greater than 18. [For toxicity studies, various dilutions of the test material are made and the test organism is exposed for the stated time; the Lethal Concentration for 50% of the organisms exposed (LC50) is then reported.] Those numbers are 2.61 for Menidia (and is in fact the most toxic on the EPA list) and 3.40 for Mysidopsis. Note that low numbers mean more toxicity and high numbers mean less toxicity, as it takes a higher concentration to kill the same number of test organisms.

    2. The key information about availability of the other agents that meet the toxicity requirement (and that are all, by the way, more effective in dispersing South Louisiana Crude) is missing in the BP response in most cases, with the notation that BP will provide the information. But the real gaming is in the way BP handles this response. They game the other agents not being available until the 10 to 15 day range as a reason to keep using CorexitEC 9500A. A company acting in good faith with the EPA order would say that they have chosen compound X as fitting the EPA criteria, but that availability dictates that they cannot implement the switch until date Y. They are making no effort to switch, they are simply gaming short term delivery issues to keep using the agent that is the most toxic but on which they are making money.

  4. bobschacht says:

    There are many folks in these parts who have come to dismiss Obama as nothing but another corporate shill. Indeed, Sarah Palin has joined the chorus. Paul Krugman has a different take on this(http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/opinion/24krugman.html). Indeed, I was surprised at Obama’s inflammatory language about boots on BP’s neck, which has been picked up by some others in his administration(Robert Gibbs, Ken Salazar). You can be tough on BP without using inflammatory language.

    Bob in AZ

  5. bittersweet says:

    At least some smart folks are looking at the problem with dispersants:
    “…scientists at U.C. Santa Barbara are racing to figure out how the dispersants might impact oil-eating microbes that could help clean up the spill. Dr. David Valentine and his team have been given a “rapid response” grant from the National Science Foundation…”


    Trouble is the answer is too late to help us now.

  6. TalkingStick says:

    BP is just flexing its muscle. Who has the authority to decide what happens to the common environment? So far it’s BP.

  7. cwolf says:

    I’m watching the BP feed atm & it kinda looks like their 4″ Oil Catheter Tube may be stuck.
    Just a guess – but then why are they repeatedly opening a valve that appears to be releasing gas then closing the valve when oil flows?

    • Elliott says:

      Jackson – We will be relying on the science to determine whether Corexit or other dispersant is better or worse. Independant dispersant assessments over next few days by EPA

  8. PLovering says:

    All dispersants do for us in the Gulf is take some oil off the surface.

    BP is pleased.

    • PLovering says:

      Well, if it severely affects the CNS and disrupts the entire endocrine system, look for further.

      We have a winner.

      Sure beats the Aluminum Oxide nanoparticle vaccines, which disrupt the BBB (blood-brain barrier).

  9. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    If the segment on Ratigan’s MSNBC show today on the topic of the amount of oil coming out of that spigot, plus the fact that the info from BP has been consistently inaccurate, plus the fact that this is probably a blowout and BP can’t stop it... well, if all those things are true, then I’m willing to wager that the legal structures we call ‘corporations’ are going to undergo a fundamental shift.

    Endocrine disruptors are going to be almost a footnote if that hole isn’t plugged.

    BP and MMS are so deep in denial they should be ignored.

    • sojourner says:

      Hi, ROTL!

      If any good can come out of this, maybe the American public will realize just how subservient our government is to corporations. I have been around the oil and gas industry for years, and yes — many of those companies abide by their rules only. All this stuff of what’s good for free enterprise has to be reined in some — it is destroying the rest of us!

      I truly hope that Obama has the cojones to put that boot down HARD on BP’s neck. Rules and laws have a meaning — or at least they are supposed to!

  10. cwolf says:

    Since Bobby Jindal appears unable to Exorcise the Oil from the Gulf as easily as he can banish some imaginary Demons from a gullible believer,,,
    I have an idea…
    Gather all the bibles in the south & use them to soak up the oil, there’s more than enough and they’re already widely distributed, and,,, well, I’d say that’s puttin’ the lord’s word to good use.

    • apm1118 says:

      I’m sure they were, and I’m sure the only thing BP read was the two sentences

      The human health risk:low
      The environmental risk: low

      But if you really look at the chemicals they are putting in 9527, ie. 2-Butoxyethanol, this stuff shouldn’t even be allowed to be produced to be used in the manner it is now. It is a failure in chemical safety BIG TIME. It can break down red blood cells, among other things. I get why some highly toxic stuff is made, its because we need it. But it should only be used in a controlled environment. I have to say that this is anything but controlled. People are playing the blame game and having meetings etc. and trying to politically maneuver, what they don’t understand is that people will start to get sick on a massive scale. Treatment centers for sick workers have already been requested yet they aren’t wearing respirators, why? Well my theory, it looks bad and costs money.

  11. JThomason says:

    Here’s a question. Were individuals whose health was effected by dispersants in Alaska who brought suit placed under a restraining order to remain silent about these effects? Also consider this, the oil eating microbes are not the answer as they have no way to check their hunger in shifting from a sterile organic environment into a situation say where they are infecting or migrating into other living organisms which after all depend on oils as part of their own vitality.

    The lax regulatory environment is a direct consequence of the Republican effort to dismantle the tort system in American. The elimination of punitive damages in the Valdez situation in the Supreme Court was the coup de gras. Environmental regulation has long been understood to undermine profits from those who prefer to operate in the faux markets of Enron capitalism. These are the people who spend all day calculating how to get over on the public while the public handles the tedious tasks of assuring that the economy actually exists.

    I don’t have the answer but many of the dispersant solutions have no relevance to deep water petroleum plumes and have side effects that are inestimable.

    Its not like the risk of an oil rig blowing was an unknown. In the parlance the risk of these oil gushers is inherent. But if anything the notion of any strict liability is utterly degraded in the imperial, corporate, neo-feudal order to the notion of unfettered profits. And in the end the corporate interests are accustomed to an environment of coercion and so a government that depends on politics rather than law to govern is going to end up the odd man out. Legalistically BP will hide behind the notion that much of the Gulf is extra-jurisdictional. And all the while BP has been cynically promoting itself as a “green” corporation. The media portrait does not always resound with fidelity to the reality.

    America is bleeding. BHO would be in a far better position to blame W if he had not signed off on the accoutrement of Cheney’s executive theories and not taken this irresponsible head in the sand ‘don’t look back’ attitude. The sad thing is that the poignant awareness of these things that the commenting class may have and even political action at this time is subject to being fairly ineffectual against the loss of economic and territorial vigor and the betrayal of any common concern among the elites because of the need for an unconscionable passive economic advantage.

    • spanishinquisition says:

      “America is bleeding. BHO would be in a far better position to blame W if he had not signed off on the accoutrement of Cheney’s executive theories and not taken this irresponsible head in the sand ‘don’t look back’ attitude.”

      Obama is just as bad if not worse than Bush. Obama has been a huge corporatist who has made his whole MO be letting corporations write their own rules. Just before the oil volcano happened Obama was using oil industry talking points as justification for expanding drilling beyond what Bush did. Obama’s executive and Constitutional theories have been bad, but that’s not all that he has done. Obama has been rather blatant (particularly after HIR) about how he’s all for businesses writing their own regulations.

    • apm1118 says:

      To answer your question about the health effects and law suits in Alaska.

      There were suits that were filed against Exxon. I believe there were around 275 deaths of the 6,722 workers that got the “Valdez Crud.” However, they successfully sealed their death certificates or the court documents. There was never any successful suits where it mattered and they actually paid what they said they were going to in the beginning. The court battles lasted close to 20 years, if not still ongoing.

      The other issue is that if these 6,722 workers were to get diagnosed with something its not going to be “chemical illness.” There are a multitude and a myriad of disorders, diseases, and life long affects from the crude oil and dispersant (particularly Corexit) that any doctor could not effectively state on a death or medical record that it was from the clean up. Hypothetically, if I were to have been involved in the clean up of the Exxon Valdez and had gotten sick, it would have been diagnosed as an upper respiratory infection that has lasted 20 years. Or a disease of some sort. Or a rare type of MS, Leukemia, tumors, reproductive damage, etc. One of the reasons is there hasn’t been enough time to do a proper study considering the fact that the suits are done or near the ending of, from the Exxon Valdez. And then this happened. Give it time I’m sure an effective study will be done soon. But everyone that worked on that spill is now currently working on the Gulf catastrophe.

  12. gigi3 says:

    Crony capitalism plays a role in why BP is using Corexit. Corexit is manufactured by Nalco (NLC). One of Nalco’s Directors is Rodney F. Chase. He retired from BP after 38 years. Daniel S. Sanders, another Nalco Director, retired after working for ExxonMobile Chemical Company for 43 years. In 2003 Nalco was acquired by a consortium comprised of Blackstone Group, Apollo Management and Goldman Sachs Partners.


    There are non-toxic ways to clean up the oil. Here is one of them:

    The inventor of AeroHaz (now AmeriHaz) is Dr. Mike Castle, polymer scientist and certified environmental risk auditor. His company is no longer in business, but he still owns the patent to this technology. He called in to a talk show I was listening to this morning. He said he has been calling government officials at state & federal level since the rig exploded and has been completely stonewalled. He confirmed what has already been posted here. Corexit is extremely toxic and is an endocrine disrupter. He also said one of the components found in Corexit causes benzene (naturally occurring in crude oil) to increase tenfold.


    One of the things brought up on the show is that these rigs are required to have a voice data recorder. I have heard nothing from the media about these black boxes or the rig’s log books.

    Yesterday I read a story reported by WWLTV in LA that the director of emergency management had commandeered more than 40 boats hired by BP that were sitting idle. I tried to find the article this afternoon. Poof! The link I saved now takes me a page that says “the page you are looking for could not be found.” And, it has been scrubbed from WWLTV’s website.

    Callers from LA to others shows I have listened to for the past week or so are saying local residents and officials are being asked to wait for BP to find a solution rather than take any action themselves. It’s like a Katrina redux.

  13. bobschacht says:

    Axelrod on Hardball today–
    Clearly out of his depth. He’s the wrong guy to be out front on this BP crisis.

    “Who could have predicted…” comes to mind. Clear over-reliance on Dr. Chu. No mention of Woods Hole.

    Bob in AZ

  14. fatster says:

    Press Release of Senator Wyden
    Senators Call on AG DOJ to Investigate Transocean Ltd. Money Transfers
    Owner of Destroyed Oil Rig in Gulf of Mexico to Move $1 Billion out of Company Accounts – Action Could Limit Company’s Liabilit

    “After reports that Transocean Ltd., the owner of the destroyed oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, intends to distribute $1 billion to private shareholders, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter with 17 of his Senate colleagues to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the Department of Justice look into the corporation’s financial transactions. ”


    • harpie says:

      Thanks for this [and for all of the important links you provide], faster. I hope something comes of Wyden’s effort here. When I read about Transocean’s evasive machinations last week, I thought they might already have gotten away with it…and like you say @45…”what a racket”…

      It seems like the MO of the oligarchy: make a catastrophe [for others] and then profit from it.
      They never seem to realize that one of these days, those effected by that catastrophe will include themselves.

      • fatster says:

        You’re right, harpie, they don’t seem to have the capacity to realize the longer-range consequences to themselves. And they don’t fear us at all, and why should they? They have at their disposal some horrific weapons to keep us at bay–weapons developed and purchased from members of their own class using our tax dollars.

        What a deal.

  15. fatster says:

    Money, money, money. All these guys are always looking for money. What a racket!

    Insurance Premiums for Offshore Drilling Soar 15%-50%


  16. JohnLopresti says:

    re: clem…@33, Msds*es can have a minimalist variety of divulgation. May be worthwhile to look for independent lab reports as supplements for assay of **active** ingredient(s) obscured in copyright language, e.g. **organic sulfonic acid salt [proprietary]**. For example, in the references section in the 539295 msds pp10-11, little of specificity appears to be present, based on the reference source names. It was interesting to read, as well, that among the several countries enumerated in the chemical control laws section @pp9-10 ibid, the Europe boilerplate included the proviso **included in or exempted from the EINECS or ELINCS inventories**. As mentioned in the thread, this msds publication date is a brief two weeks since *issuance* by nalco @foot of p11 in msds. The two msds downloads are from the coordinating website **jointinfo** for the spill, which includes only two firms bp and transo, that **aboutus page**list consisting primarily of ~13 federal agencies.

Comments are closed.