LSU Research Finds Dispersants Speed Up Bioaccumlation of BP Gulf Oil Spill Toxins In the Food Chain


Research being conducted by Kevin Kleinow, DVM, PhD, a LSU toxicologist has made some startling revelations that directly contradicts claims being made by the Federal Government about the safety of BP Gulf Oil Spill Seafood.

Kevin Kleinow specializes in environmental health issues, especially those related to fish.

Dr. Kleinow received  his DVM from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1982. A PhD followed in 1984 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center for Great Lakes Studies with a cooperative program in Toxicology, and Pharmacology in The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, at the Medical College of Wisconsin. A NIH Post-doctoral Fellowship followed at The Medical College of Wisconsin NIEHS Aquatic Biomedical Center. Dr Kleinow moved to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University and is currently a Professor in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences. His research interests are aquaticanimal toxicology and pharmacology as related to the bioavailability, biotransformation, and kinetics of dietary xenobiotics. Of particular interest is the role of transporters and physiological functions modulating or defining the intestinal bioavailability and disposition of xenobiotics in the aquatic food chain.

Dr. Kleinow research shows that dispersants open up membranes and allow toxins released from the BP Gulf Oil Spill to penetrate fish much more rapidly than normal thus increasing the amount of chemicals in seafood affected by the spill.

At the same time the dispersants prevent the toxins from gaining high enough concentrations in internal cells that would normally remove such toxins from the bodies of the fish.

So to summarize dispersants allow toxins to enter fish faster and at the same time prevent the fish from removing the chemicals from the body.
From the article on the LSU website on the research being coducted on the effect of dispersants on the food chain :

With the oil spill in the Gulf, Dr. Kleinow has redirected ongoing work on domestic and industrial surfactant input into aquatic environments to dispersant use with the oil spill. Surfactants, major components of dispersants, are being examined as to how they may affect the uptake and fate of petrochemicals in the fish.

Much of Dr. Kleinow’s work with fish has centered on how fish deal with environmental contaminants or drugs. Biotransformation of chemicals to more excretable forms and transport within and out of the fish are major-components of these studies. The outcome of these processing events is influential in the food chain transfer of chemicals through the aquatic and marine food chains and to humans. During studies examining the bioavailability and fate of chemicals known to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals, Dr. Kleinow noted increased bioavailability and retention of co-exposed dietary chemicals. He noted that the chemicals that elicited this behavior were also surfactants. Drawing on past training and recent literature reviews, he correlated that surfactants, when added in significant amounts, increased intestinal bioavailability of oral medicines and inhibited transporters involved in drug excretion. From these observations and uses, Dr. Kleinow postulated that surfactants discharged in the environment—even at low concentrations—would alter the uptake, excretion, retention, and potential toxicity of other chemicals in the environmental food chain.

Subsequent work in his laboratory on the dispositional aspects of this hypothesis showed that indeed this was true. Surfactants appear to do this by changing the permeability of membranes in the intestinal wall and places of excretion, such as the biliary tract. Dr. Kleinow added, “It’s sort of like a levee along the river. If the levee is leaking and our pump is big enough, we pump the water back over the other side and there’s no problem. But if the leak becomes too big, the pumps won’t be able to keep up, and we get water over here. And that’s what happens with the surfactant; it progressively increases the permeability so more and more compound gets into the animal from the higher contaminant concentration in the diet in the intestine, increasing bioavailability. In a similar fashion, but with opposite results, surfactants prevent the transporter-mediated concentration of contaminants into the bile necessary for excretion. Leakage back from the bile lowers the amount of contaminant available for excretion. For both venues the net result is increased compound equivalents in the fish. Surfactants themselves, having low relative toxicity as a group and hence widespread use in shampoos, detergents and the like, could facilitate the toxicity of other chemicals potentially much more hazardous to the fish.

As it relates to waters directly affected by the Gulf oil spill, a foreign substance—oil—has been introduced into the water. Dispersants break up the oil, making it easier for natural bacteria to break it down. This is a good thing; however, initially there may be too much oil for the bacteria to act upon. “Well, it’s just like you or me going to a buffet. Once you get full, it doesn’t matter how much more is on the buffet, you’re not going to eat anymore,” said Dr. Kleinow. By adding dispersants to the water to break up the oil, surfactants in the dispersants not only increase access of the non-remediated oil to the fish, but also could cause select toxic compounds in the oil to be absorbed more rapidly and make it harder for the fish to excrete those compounds.

Dr. Kleinow believes the most important benchmark of the spill’s effect has yet to be played out. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that the most sensitive stages to the effects of oil are the embryonic stages of fish and other organisms. These early life stages—many of which reside in the marshes—are the upcoming generations and the future of the Gulf. Dr. Kleinow hopes his studies with surfactants as applied to oil with embryonic fish and studies with soot from combustion of oil spill constituents (with colleague Dr. Arthur Penn, professor of toxicology) will help delineate plausible remediation approaches to the contaminated wetlands containing these sensitive organisms.

As far as the microbes eating the oil that doesn’t appear to be happening.

In fact as recently pointed out the use of dispersants to break down the oil seems to have done very little good.

Top experts say that the it is likely that oil from the spill will remain in the environment for decades.

As you might have heard, scientists are finding gigantic under oil plumes from the BP spill, including one that is more than 22 miles long, more than a mile wide and 650 feet deep.

On Thursday, Dr. Ian MacDonald and and Dr. Lisa Suatoni testified to a Congressional subcommittee that the oil will stay toxic, and will not degrade much further, for decades. MacDonald is an expert in deep-ocean extreme communities including natural hydrocarbon seeps, gas hydrates, and mud volcano systems, a former long-time NOAA scientist, and a professor of Biological Oceanography at Florida State University. Suatoni has a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale, and is Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Oceans Program.

Dr. MacDonald told Congress that the oil has already degraded, emulsified and evaporated about as much as its going to, and it is going to very resistant for further biodegradation. The oil will be in the environment for a long-time, he said, and the imprint of the BP discharge will be detectable “for the rest of my life” (he’s 58, and the average lifespan for American men is about 76; so that’s some 18 years).

Why isn’t the oil degrading faster?

As National Geographic noted Thursday:

The oil plume’s stability is “a little unexpected,” study leader Richard Camilli, of WHOI’s Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, said at a Thursday press briefing in Washington, D.C.

“We don’t have any clear indication as to why it set up at that depth.”

It’s unclear why the Gulf’s microbes aren’t eating the oil plume, but the organisms are infamous for being unpredictable, said study co-author Christopher Reddy, a marine chemist at WHOI.


Further studies are needed to figure out why the plume isn’t degrading, Reddy said during the press briefing ….

Indeed, one of the world’s leading experts on oil-eating bacteria told me yesterday that the main oil-eaters aren’t even present in the underwater plumes he sampled.

In addition to the lack of oil eating microbes being found in deepwater plumes, possibly due to the use of dispersants, the oil is very resistant to biodegration .

Dr. Kleinow’s research showing that the dispersants increase the byproducts of oil toxins in fish and prevents them from being excreted may be exactly why the Federal Government is not testing Gulf Seafood for those byproducts.

Feds Admit No Testing For Bioaccumulatioin Of PAHs Metabolites In BP Gulf Oil Spill Seafood


Congressman Markey: Mr Cramer Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are one of the most concerning compounds in oil because of their concerning health impacts.

Congressman Markey: However these compounds are also very quickly metabolized in aquatics species particulary in certain types of fish.

Congressman Markey: It is my understanding that Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are often metabolized into products that are retained in the flesh and can be more toxic than their parent compounds.

Congressman Markey: In the market surveilance is the FDA examing the matabolites of PAH’s in the analytic tests.

Caption: Observe the face and body language of the FDA Official when he is nailed

FDA Official: It is my understanding that what we are looking for is specific PAHs and not the metabolites of those PAHs so the short answer is no.

It could also explain why the Federal Government is not testing BP Gulf Oil Spill seafood for mercury, arsenic, or other toxic heavy metals

In testimony before the BP Gulf Oil Spill and Seafood Safety Government Panel the FDA admits NOT testing for MERCURY, ARSENIC, or other TOXIC HEAVY METALS From BP Gulf Oil Spill

So the FDA doesn’t believe that mercury, arsenic, or other toxic metals will increase from the BP Gulf Oil Spill.

As I have already pointed out scientists have already sounded the alarm about arsenic levels on the rise in the Gulf because of the spill.

As Washington’s Blog has pointed out this is an absolute lie.

The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) just announced:

For the seafood to pose a health risk, the food would have to be heavily contaminated with oil, and would therefore have a strong odor and taste of oil.

That is patently untrue.

As I pointed out in June:

Crude oil contains such powerful cancer-causing chemicals as benzene, toluene, heavy metals and arsenic.


As Bloomberg notes:

“Oil is a complex mixture containing substances like benzene, heavy metals, arsenic, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons — all known to cause human health problems such as cancer, birth defects or miscarriages,” said Kenneth Olden, founding dean of New York’s CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, who is monitoring a panel on possible delayed effects.

And crude oil contains mercury. Mercury is odorless, so fish contaminated with mercury will not smell or taste like oil.

As McClatchy notes today:

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill still poses threats to human health and seafood safety, according to a study published Monday by the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association.


In the short term, study co-author Gina Solomon voiced greatest concern for shrimp, oysters, crabs and other invertebrates she says are have difficulty clearing their systems of dangerous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) similar to those found in cigarette smoke and soot. Solomon is an MD and public health expert in the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

In the longer term, she expressed worries about big fin fish such as tuna, swordfish and mackerel, saying levels of mercury from the oil might slowly increase over time by being consumed by fish lower in the food chain and becoming concentrating in the larger fish.

As time goes on, she said, doctors may be warning pregnant women and children to strictly limit the amount of such fish they eat. Some of the fish had relatively high levels of mercury even before the oil spill, she said.


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