The U.S. government is ordering energy giant BP to find less-toxic chemicals to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill amid evidence that the dispersants are not effective and could actually make the spill more harmful to marine life.
The Environmental Protection Agency said that BP has to choose an alternative dispersant and must begin using it. So far, BP has put about 600,000 gallons of the chemical mixture Corexit 9500 on the surface and 55,000 gallons on the sea bottom.
Dispersants are toxic, and when mixed with oil can become even more dangerous than either the dispersant or oil alone, according to EPA data.
Oil treated with dispersants spreads through the water, more readily coming in contact with delicate fish eggs and other fragile sea dwellers, said Peter Hodson, a specialist in fish toxicology who is director of the School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.