Researchers at Tulane University are working on designing a less toxic oil dispersant than the Corexit used on the BP spill in 2010. The goal is using ingredients now approved for human consumption.
When BP’s Macondo well was erupting, the Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency okayed the use of the chemical dispersant Corexit.
BP says it used almost 2 million gallons — about half sprayed over the surface, the other pumped directly at the underwater well.
Since then, some cleanup workers have reported health problems that include kidney and liver damage.
The Tulane researchers have been awarded $1 million from BP to find another dispersant with minimal side effects.
“They’re not telling us, ‘Look at this. Don’t look at that.’ They’re just giving us money," says Tulane chemistry professor Scott Grayson. "So this is being driven completely by the science, completely by the individual scientists involved.”
Grayson is teamed with Tulane physics professor Wayne Reed and Daniel Savin, a chemistry professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.
They’ll be working with materials now approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Obviously there are some concerns with Corexit, both in its effectiveness and potential ecological toxicity and human health issues," he said. "And so we’re trying to push it to the next step where we have something that works even better and yet has less side effects.”
The goal is finding a product that will also not harm marine life.