In 2010 British Petroleum and the federal government used more than two million gallons of controversial chemical dispersant known as Corexit to prevent huge amounts of oil from making landfall along the Gulf of Mexico.
The Environmental Protection Agency knew Corexit was a lousy choice, but other more environmentally friendly dispersants weren't available in large enough quantities, so Corexit got the nod and the damage was done. Once Corexit was applied it made the BP crude 52 times more toxic than crude oil alone.
To date thousands of people may have been exposed and by some estimates thousands of gallons of it are still out there covering the sea floor.
While U.S. air craft dropped thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants on miles of oil slicks, Wilma Subra says the Food and Drug Administration adopted a list of recommended concentrations governing the continued safe consumption of Gulf Coast seafood. Subra and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network weren't impressed.
“We thought it was much much too little. It allowed people to consume fish, shrimp, crabs and oysters that were contaminated over what we thought was an acceptable level,” said Wilma Subra.
Subra who just completed the most extensive testing to date of contamination levels in the entire Gulf says while some levels of chemical contamination have declined others have remained constant and for that reason still pose a potential health threat.
“In the short term you can be at risk for respiratory problems and stomach ailments and in the long term liver and kidney damage and even cancer because some of the chemicals we are finding out there are known carcinogens.” said Subra.
Now in an unprecedented effort to protect Gulf Coast residents, Subra and LEAN are about to publish a comprehensive list in plain English that details how much of a particular type of seafood is safe to eat in a given period of time. Wilma says the publication will be species and location specific. That means you will know how much of any particular Gulf seafood you can safely consume.
Now of course the final decision is still up to you, but many see it as a huge step forward in helping those who may be most at risk like pregnant women and children avoid contamination related health problems.