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National Water Quality Laboratory

Sunday December 17, 2017

Environmental Science & Technology

A Roll for Analytical Chemistry in Advancing our Understanding of the Occurrence, Fate, and Effects of Corexit Oil Dispersants

Place, B., Anderson, B., Mekebri, A., Furlong, E.T., Gray, J.L., Tjeerdema, R., Field, J.,

July 2010

Author's viewpoint

On April 24, 2010, the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig resulted in the release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As of July 19, 2010, the federal government's Deepwater Horison Incident Joint Information Center estimates the cumulative range of oil released is 3,067,000 to 5,258,000 barrels, with a relief well to be completed in early August. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez oil spill released a total of 260,000 barrels of crude oil into the environment. As of June 9, BP has used over 1 million gallons of Corexit oil dispersants to solubilize oil and help prevent the development of a surface oil slick (1).

Oil dispersants are mixtures containing solvents and surfactants that can exhibit toxicity toward aquatic life and may enhance the toxicity of components of weathered crude oil. Detailed knowledge of the composition of both Corexit formulations and other dispersants applied in the Gulf will facilitate comprehensive monitoring programs for determining the occurrence, fate, and biological effects of the dispersant chemicals. The lack of information on the potential impacts of oil dispersants has caught industry, federal, and state officials off guard. Until compositions of Corexit 9500 and 9527 were released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency online, the only information available consisted of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), patent documentation, and a National Research Council report on oil dispersants (2). Several trade and common names are used for the components of the Corexits. For example, Tween 80 and Tween 85 are oligomeric mixtures.

 

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