That's the message I took home from this article:
Seafood At Risk: Dispersed Oil Poses A Long-Term Threat, Scientific American, April 20, 2011
It's been a year since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill left more than 200 million gallons of oil and 2 million gallons of the dispersant Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil was bad enough, but it's the dispersant that may drive the nail in the coffin of public trust in the safety of Gulf seafood.
Dr. Susan Shaw, marine toxicologist and director at the Marine Environmental Research Institute:
"There is no safe level of exposure to this oil. ... The oil contains carcinogens and mutagens that can damage DNA and cause cancer and other chronic health problems."But the FDA has to draw a safe-level line somewhere. They're basing that line on:
"The current FDA risk assessment protocol is based on a 176-pound man eating four shrimp a week."That doesn't account for children or those whose body weights are lower. Is it reasonable to assume that 4 shrimp represent the entire Gulf catch that a 176-pound man, especially one who lives off the Gulf coast, consumes in a week? Or one shrimp per child per week? I don't know, but the lower that consumption level, the more likely Gulf seafood will get the and FDA "All clear."
There are three problems with the dispersant used to break up the oil.
- Dispersant keeps oil in the environment longer. It also makes removing oil from the environment more difficult.
(One-fifth of juveniles of an endangered species, the Atlantic bluefin tuna, were killed in this accident because they "spawn at the exact time and location that the oil spill occurred.")
- "The dispersed oil ends up small enough that it can get in through the gills or be more easily eaten by fish or shrimp, and that could mean that the oil could accumulate more in seafood."
- Dispersant ingredients themselves may be toxic. The FDA has decided to test seafood for only one compound in Corexit, a tracer. BP has decided not to release data on the toxicity of the hundreds of other chemicals in Corexit; "these are protected under US law as trade secrets."
There is a benefit from using dispersant:
- "BP is economically liable for every barrel spilled; dispersing the oil so that it cannot be collected by skimmers and accounted for, could result in the amount spilled to be underestimated, and smaller payouts by BP.
"There’s an urgency to reopen the fishing areas but I think it’s likely that we’re going to find oil in the food chain."Indeed, according to Shaw, there is already evidence that crabs have oil in their bodies. And recent studies show that Gulf shrimp contain oil and hydrocarbons.
"Steve Wilson, chief quality officer for NOAA's Seafood Inspection Program, demonstrates sensory analysis of a sample of shrimp at NOAA's National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula (Courtesy Monica Allen/NOAA)."