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Pesticide Used to Disperse Oil May Be Making Matters Worse

As sickening as the Gulf oil crisis appears on television, it turned positively nauseating today for me during a phone conversation with a colleague who experienced the Exxon Valdez oil spill first hand in Alaska. And though this blog doesn’t typically concern itself with matters outside the realm of gardening and lawn care, this is a pesticide issue that people should know about.

Apparently the primary compound used by BP to try to disperse the oil in the Gulf region is known as Corexit, which is also a pesticide used in certain situations to kill bacteria. The EPA has banned the substance due to its highly toxic nature — it kills aquatic life, causes cancer and damages the liver and kidneys in humans — simply when absorbed through the skin. My colleague, who doesn’t want her name used in print due to potential ongoing litigation, feels she was poisoned and left unable to have children after her exposure to Corexit in the water during the cleanup in Alaska.

Some on-line reports indicate that BP has poured more than a million gallons of Corexit into the ocean in attempt to disperse the millions of barrels of oil that continue to flow from the infamous blown wellhead. The EPA told BP to cease using Corexit as its dispersant of choice, but the company refused in this letter:, basically saying that no other suitable alternative exists.

I don’t pretend to know whether BP is right, or wrong, it its assessment of alternatives. Plenty of on-line news sources and bloggers, however, feel the continued use of this product is outrageous — only making a bad situation worse. Here’s just one example of such a site:

What I do know is that with every passing day, with every fish and bird kill and every inch of coastline ruined for a generation or longer, we must ask ourselves how long we are going to maintain the status quo dependence on oil? How long will we allow unbridled pesticide applications and ignore the mounds of evidence of health risks? As gardeners and lawn care professionals who may rely on gas for our mowers, electricity for our water pumps, or synthetic fertilizer and pesticides for our lawns and crops, we should feel at least somewhat complicit in this ongoing tragedy.

As organic advocates, we’re taking a step in the right direction, but at this hour we all need to dig deeper and somehow do more.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Jim Woodward

    I’ve actually been thinking the same think as this Gulf mess worsens each day. We’re all at fault, really, for being so damned dependent on the crude that is ruining people’s lives by the minute. In the ultimate irony, we’re so addicted to the crude that the Governor of Mississippi wants to take barges out into the middle of the poisoned waters and keep drilling some more so his constituents will have jobs. To call this a vicious cycle is the understatement of the century.

    So, yes, we all need to park our mowers and stop watering and fertilizing our lawns. We need to use mass transportation and only fly when necessary. And, yes, the economy will take a few hits and the market will further soften. But isn’t that OK in the short term if it means avoiding more catastrophes like this one?

    Jim Woodward, West LA

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