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Toxic Clean Up

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig experienced a devastating oil spill in 2010.

The Gulf of Mexico residents thought the damage done was just going to be from the 4.9 million barrels of oil which were floating around in the water.

The Gulf ecosystem was nearly destroyed, tourism shot down in the area, and marine sources of food were scarce, resulting in one of the worst man-made disasters in recent memory.

However, BP promised to be the knight in shining armor, and to come save the residents and ecosystem of the Gulf.

Through poking and prodding from the Gulf residents and a wide array of politicians, BP finally launched a full-scale effort to clean up the Gulf. In addition to the clean-up, BP began a massive public relations effort, creating what can only be called “corporate propaganda,” to attempt to bring the public back on their side and forget about the devastation BP was solely responsible for. As a result, BP bounced back, and everyone seemed to forgive BP for being extremely reckless and wildly irresponsible, and everything went back to normal—until now.

New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico, found the approximately two million gallons of dispersant used by BP to clean up the Deepwater Horizon spill actually made the situation worse. The water is now 52 times more toxic than with just the oil alone. In its defense though, the dispersant Corexit, which was used to clean up the Gulf, is the dispersant required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is unclear why a toxic dispersant is required by the EPA, but that is the case.

The toxicity of mixtures of Corexit along with oil was tested on rotifers, a microscopic grazing animal at the base of the Gulf’s food web. Rotifers have long been used by ecotoxicologists to assess toxicity in marine waters because of their fast response time, ease of use in tests and sensitivity to toxicants. In the tests, the mixtures increased mortality rates among adult rotifers and inhibited egg hatching by 50 percent. Less eggs mean less rotifers, and less food for creatures higher on the food chain.

It appears the Gulf of Mexico can’t catch a break, but it makes it much more difficult for success when the cleaning agent is just as bad as the mess.

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