The Amount Of Neurotoxin Pesticide Corexit Sprayed By BP Tops 1 Million Gallons


BP’s latest oil spill response update for June 4th says the total amount of the dispersant used in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1,021,000 gallons.

But what most people don’t know is that the active ingredient of the toxic chemical dispersant, which is up to 60% by volume, being sprayed by BP to fight the Gulf oil spill  is a  neurotoxin pesticide that is acutely toxic to both human and aquatic life, causes cancer, causes damage to internal organs such as the liver and kidneys simply by absorbing it through the skin and may cause reproductive side effects.

In fact the neurotoxin pesticide that is lethal to 50% of life in concentrations as little as 2.6 parts per million has been banned for use in the UK since 1998 because it failed the UK  “Rocky shore  test”which assures that the dispersant does not cause a “significant deleterious ecological change” – or to put that in layman’s terms it can kill off the entire food chain.

Corexit has also earned the highest EPA warning label for toxicity which means the effects of the toxic chemicals to the eye are corrosive resulting in irreversible destruction of ocular tissue and other tissue with corneal involvement along with an burning that can  persist for more than 21 days and effects to human  skin are corrosive resulting in tissue destruction into the dermis and/or scarring.

Corexit was widely used after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and according to a literature review performed by the group the Alaska Community Action on Toxics  was later linked with widespread long lasting health impacts in people including respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.

The “Human Health Hazards” are said to be “Chronic” for Corexit  EC9527A according to the EPA.

So What Are These Dispersants Made Of That Makes Them Such a Powerful Neurotoxin Pesticide?

The main ingredients of Corexit is 2-Butoxyethanol which can make up to 60% of the dispersant and is known to be toxic to blood, kidneys, liver, and the central nervous system (CNS).

2-Butoxyethanol is also known to cause cancer, birth defects and has been found to cause genetic mutations and is a delayed chronic health hazard as well as an environmental hazardous material

Corexit also contains Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, and Cyanide.

How effective is Corexit in dispersing Gulf crude?

Corexit 9500 is only 54.7% effective and Corexit 9527A is 63.4% effective in dispersing the crude oil found off the shores of South Louisiana.

BP has sprayed both Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 into the Gulf of Mexico to disperse the oil both of which have been banned in the UK since 1998 for failure to pass the Rocky Shores Test.

By BP’s own admission Corexit has the potential for bioaccumulation meaning it has the potential to accumulate in the tissues of organism beginning with the first organism in a food chain.

Why allow the use of these toxic dispersants?

Well the EPA has ordered BP to stop using the dispersants but BP has refused

Instead BP replied with its justification for using Corexit which the EPA responded to saying BP’s response “lacked sufficient analysis and focused more defending your initial decision” .

In general, the EPA justifies the use of dispersants because they are less toxic than oil and the cause less of an environment impact that oil along the coastline calling dispersants an environmental trade off which is the lesser of two evils.

However the choice of using Corexit contradicts both of those justifications.

Corexit is lethal in as little as 2.6 parts per million where oil is lethal in 11 parts per million meaning that Corexit is over 4 times more toxic than oil.

Furthermore scientific studies show that oil dispersed with Corexit is 11 times more lethal than oil alone.

In fact the study referenced showed that crude oil was lethal at 4250 parts per million to killifish but combination of oil mixed with Corexit was lethal in as little as 317.7 ppm.

“Dispersed oils were more toxic than crude oils,” noted the report.

The other justification of lessening the environmental impact along the shoreline doesn’t hold up either as the reason Corexit was banned in the UK is because it was in fact shown to have a “significant deleterious ecological change” on the shoreline.

The fact Corexit is 4 times as toxic as oil and up to 11 times as toxic when combined with oil it literally makes no sense to allow the use of such a toxic chemical that can “delete” the ecological systems along the Gulf coast.

A report in the journal Environmental Toxicology a decade ago concluded that lethality levels in “dispersed oil combinations were significantly more toxic to these organisms than .. crude oil.” Another study, this time of snails and amphipods reached exactly the same conclusion.

What are the long term effects of Corexit?

The EPA has stated over and over that the long term effects of the use of Corexit are unknown yet there is plenty of data documenting the long term effects on humans (see below).

Further making the EPA claims questionable is EPA’s Deepwater horizon response sites site clearly states that between 1 million and 2.5 million gallons of the neurotoxin pesticide Corexit was used in the 1979 ixtoc oil spill which makes it unfathomable that the EPA doesn’t know what the long term effects are of a chemical that has been widely used, and eventually banned in certain countries, over a period of 30 years.

To the contrary of the EPA’s statement scientific studies widely state Corexit 9527 has been tested extensively in the laboratory and used on oil spills since 1978 and a considerable number of toxicity reports exist concerning a wide variety of species.

So why does the Federal Government continue to tell us the the long term effects of the dispersant usage are unknown?

Why does the Federal Government continue to pretend like they know so little about the dispersant BP is being used?

What are the chemical components of the dispersants COREXIT 9500 and COREXIT 9527?

While the main ingredient which makes up to 60% of Corexit is reason enough to cause concern.

If you dig any more dirt on these let me know.

The components of COREXIT 9500 and 9527 are:

CAS Registry Number Chemical Name
Butanedioic acid, 2-sulfo-, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt (1:1)
Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate
Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs.
Sorbitan, tri-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs
2-Propanol, 1-(2-butoxy-1-methylethoxy)-
Distillates (petroleum), hydrotreated light
The have also been found to contain Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, and Cyanide among other heavy metals

What are the Chronic Health effects of Corexit?

Here are some of the highlights from the MSDS for the active ingredient (2-butoxyethanol) – of Corexit (up to 60% by volume)

  • Severe over-exposure can result in death.
  • MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast.
  • The substance may be toxic to blood, kidneys, liver, central nervous system (CNS).
  • Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.
  • Repeated exposure to highly (this) toxic material may produce general deterioration of health by an accumulation in one or many human organs.
  • Hazardous in case of skin contact (permeator), of ingestion, of inhalation.
  • May cause adverse reproductive effects (maternal and paternal fertility, fetoxicity)
  • May cause birth defects (teratogenic)
  • May cause cancer (tumorigenic)
  • Penetrates intact skin easily and can cause systemic effects and central nervous system depression
  • Inhalation: May cause irritation of the respiratory tract. May affect behavior (analgesia), behavior/central nervous system (headache, drowsiness, dizzness, stuttering, coma, weakness, ataxia, slurred speech, loss of coordination and judgement, personality changes, analgesia, blurred vision, tremor, excitement, somnolence), sense organs, the gastrointestinal tract (nausea, vomiting), metabolism (metabolic acidosis), respiration (dyspnea), urinary system (kidneys – hematuria, albuminuria, polyuria, oliguria, renal failure), liver (liver damage).
  • Exposure to high vapor concentration may also cause corneal or lens opacity of the eyes.
  • Ingestion: Causes gastrointestinal tract irritation with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. May affect behavior/central
    nervous system (see inhalation), respiration (dyspnea), metabolism, cardiovascular system.
  • Chronic Potential Health Effects: Inhalation and Ingestion: Prolonged or repeated inhalation or ingestion may affect the liver, blood (changes in red blood cell count, pigmented or nucleated red blood cells, microcytosis with or without anemia, erythropenia, reticulocytosis, granulocytosis, leukocytosis), urinary system (kidneys -hematuria), metabolism (weight loss), endocrine system (spleen, thymus, pancreas). Prolonged or repeated inhalation of high concentrations may also cause lung hemmorrhage, congestion, bronchopneumonia.
  • Classified in Canada as CLASS D-1A: Material causing immediate and serious toxic effects (VERY TOXIC).
  • Classified in Canada as CLASS D-2B: Material causing other toxic effects (TOXIC)

What does the EPA say about the human health effects expected as a result of using the dispersants?

The EPA warning about human health affects says

People working with dispersants are strongly advised to use a half face filter mask or an air-supplied breathing apparatus to protect their noses, throats, and lungs, and they should wear nitrile or PVC gloves, coveralls, boots, and chemical splash goggles to keep dispersants off skin and out of their eyes. CDC provides more information on reducing occupational exposures while working with dispersants during the Gulf Oil Spill Response.

Hasn’t BP switched over to a new less toxic version of Corexit

BP does claim that since it now using the more environmentally friendly version of Corexit it can not be verified whether or not the newer version contains 2-butoxyethanol or not.

BP and the manufacturer to date have refused to release a list of all of the chemicals contained in Corexit 9500 claiming that the ingredients are proprietary.

It is quite possible that 2-butoxyethanol or an even more hazardous substance is contained in Corexit 9500.

Corexit 9500, like Corexit 9527, also contains Propylene Glycol a substance generally recognized as safe for human consumption.

However, Propylene Glycol depletes oxygen from water 5 times greater than raw sewage and the massive amounts used in the BP Gulf oil spill could help contribute to dead zones in the Gulf where aquatic life can not survive.

What about the effects of Corexit on the oil spill clean up workers

During the Exxon Valdez another version of Corexit was used to clean up the oil.

CNN reports that the average life expectancy of workers who cleaned up the Exxon Valdez is 51 years old and most of those workers are now dead.

Watch this CNN video on how the dispersants are affecting the cleanup workers which claims that BP is putting its public image over the safety of those cleaning up the oil spill.


You can find more information on the toxicity of Corexit here, here and here.


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