Dispersant Used in BP Spill Contains Newly Released Trade Secret Chemicals
Recently the EPA publicized the results from health and safety studies on 150 trade secret chemicals. Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, industrial chemicals were deemed innocent until proven guilty, meaning that it was the EPAs responsibility to show that a chemical posed a potential risk, not the manufacturer’s, to demonstrate its safety. This gave the EPA a legally ponderous burden and as a result 22,000 new chemicals have been approved by the agency since 1976, with 62,000 were already on the market when the law was passed. Only about 43 percent of these have ever been tested for their effects on humans. Nearly 25 years after TSCA was enacted, only five types of chemicals have been banned by law.
The agency is working to minimize the use of C.B.I. (Confidential Business Information) privileges which prevent the public from learning that a specific chemical may pose risks. Historically trade secret chemicals such as vinyl chloride and benzene have been shown to be highly toxic decades after they’ve been used in chemical plants and worker exposure and illness has been documented. The new policy at EPA is reflected by this latest revelation that industry must be more accountable for the risks posed by chemical ingredients.
Some ingredients on the list of 150 chemicals issued on Wednesday are several components of Corexit, a dispersant manufactured by Nalco that was used to break down oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill last year in the Gulf of Mexico.
This Table Illustrates the Corexit Chemicals that were determined by EPA to be toxic, carcinogenic or both.
|Cas #||Corexit Ingredient||Toxic/Carcinogenic data|
|9005-65-6||Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs||8EHQ-94-13042|
|9005-70-3||Sorbitan, tri-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs|
|577-11-7||* Butanedioic acid, 2-sulfo-, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt (1:1)||8EHQ-92-12031|
|64742-47-8||Distillates (petroleum), hydrotreated light||8EHQ-92-12853|
|111-76-2||** Ethanol, 2-butoxy||http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/declassified/actions/3-18-2011/090225268007c3d7_8EHQ-92-10109.pdf|
The release of the information, which identified chemicals researched in 104 studies, reflects EPA reform of TSCA and it is the second disclosure of its kind this year, after the release in March of the identity of 40 other chemicals.
And this release also means that environmental scientists and medical professionals will now have access to the health and safety data for chemicals such as those in Corexit that appear on this list, to enhance a better understanding of exposure risk by these chemicals to humans, wildlife and plants.
by JeanMarie Calvillo, Ph.D., Regulatory Specialist