As the BP leak has dumped thousands of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico each day--and the responses of the oil firm and the Obama administration have been questioned--one critical issue has been the use of dispersants, especially the main dispersants deployed by BP: Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527. The Obama administration and members of Congress have raised concerns about the substances, which are supposedly more toxic than available alternatives.
This week the EPA, with no fanfare, posted on its website the chemical components of these two dispersants. Here's the list:
Butanedioic acid, 2-sulfo-, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt (1:1)
Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs.
Sorbitan, tri-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs
Distillates (petroleum), hydrotreated light
We don't have on-staff chemists at Mother Jones or Huffington Post. And if you look up these compounds, you find that Sorbitan, for example, is used to make chemicals that allowing liquid to spread more easily and allow two liquids to mix better. But we already knew that--that's what dispersants do. Unfortunately, it's hard to determine from the list itself if dumping these chemicals into the Gulf might create more problems than they are supposed to solve. But we'll look for experts who can assess these compounds. And if you happen to know anything about octadecenoate, let us know.
--Written by Mother Jones' Nick Baumann