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article imageWatchdog says EPA covering up toxicity of Gulf oil dispersants

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 20, 2010 in Environment
Hugh Kaufman, senior policy analyst at the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the US Environmental Protection Agency, says the EPA is covering up the toxic effects of the dispersant used to help combat the oil spill.
Kaufman has never shirked from going public when he's found the EPA to be in the wrong, something that has made his career with the EPA rocky at times. Kaufman has been ringing the alarm bell over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since it began.
On Tuesday, Kaufman, told Democracy Now in an exclusive interview that the EPA is covering up the toxic effects of the dispersant used to help combat the oil spill, as well as misleading the public and the government. BP, he said, had tried to hide the true magnitude of the spill by using dispersants.
While noting that BP couldn't hide the spill any longer due to having to make its live underwater camera available to the public, Kaufman said the use of dispersants had not slowed. "... Consequently, we have people, wildlife—we have dolphins that are hemorrhaging. People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that’s what dispersants are supposed to do. EPA now is taking the position that they really don’t know how dangerous it is, even though if you read the label, it tells you how dangerous it is. And, for example, in the Exxon Valdez case, people who worked with dispersants, most of them are dead now. The average death age is around fifty. It’s very dangerous, and it’s an economic—it’s an economic protector of BP, not an environmental protector of the public."
And that's not all. Kaufman alludes to possible collusion between one owner of BP, BlackRock, and the United States government to cover up the extent of the Deepwater Horizon spill. "Follow the money," Kaufman said, referring to an article in Vanity Fair about Larry Fink, a man who owns shares in a great deal of corporate America. Fink owns BlackRock, and BlackRock owns a significant interest in BP.
The dispersant used in the Gulf oil spill, Corexit, is said to be safe according to its manufacturer. That company, Nalco, claims "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done, and continues to do, extensive monitoring and data collection in relation to the use of dispersants as a remediation tool in the Gulf oil spill. The results of the monitoring continue to show that COREXIT products are safe and effective."
It should be no surprise to learn that BlackRock also owns a sizable portion of Nalco Holding Company, the maker of Corexit.
There are two types of Corexit products being used in the gulf, said Marian Wang writing for Pro Publica. Both were banned in the United Kingdom for use fighting oil spills years ago. This information had been in a New York Times article, Wang said, but had been pulled later. Wang provides a link to a letter on the use of Corexit products by Congressman Markey questioning the EPA on the use of dispersants. Markey's earlier efforts meant the underwater camera documenting the oil spill was available for the public, an action Kaufman praised.
Kaufman said the EPA has all the facts on the toxicity of the Corexit products. Nearly two million gallons have been sprayed on the oil spill to date. Aside from concerns over toxicity, Kaufman said the dispersant was only causing the oil to sink below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
The material safety data sheet for Corexit 9500 states the chemicals can bioaccumulate.
While the EPA insists Corexit products have "limited toxicity," BP has published data showing a percentage of workers fighting to contain the oil spill were exposed to toxic chemicals, reported Greenwire.
In May, the EPA, "... required BP to study the dispersants that are being used and to identify whether there are less toxic and as effective alternatives to Corexit – the product it has been using."
Kaufman has impressive credentials. A career whistle-blower, as some call him, he has drawn attention to health hazards to humans presented by various situations, such as Hurricane Katrina.
But what Kaufman is famous for is his insistence that the EPA was covering up faulty air testing during clean-up of the World Trade Center after 9/11. Demoted from his position as an investigator for doing his job, Kaufman fought to regain his position, winning his court battle.
More about Hugh kaufman, Environmental protection agency, Corxit, Oil dispersant, Deepwater horizon oil spill
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