As the nations worst environmental disaster in history nears the 100 day mark, concerns have arisen about the methods taken to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
PBS NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports from Buras, Louisiana about the different views of scientists, environmental filmmakers, fishermen, shrimpers and concerned citizens surrounding the usage of dispersants in the oil clean up. While some local fisherman and citizens such as Ryan Lambert and Sarah Rath are fearful that the chemicals in the dispersants are "toxic" and will indefinitely cause irreversible damage to the Gulf region, others do not share their concerns.
One of the chemicals used, Corexit, is claimed to "efficiently and safely disperse oil in the open sea and in freshwater applications, where it can be consumed by microorganisms." The Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson commented at a Senate hearing that as a result of the scientific unknowns concerning the chemicals, it was best to use them in moderation.
LuAnn White, a toxicologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, is convinced that using Corexit, on the surface is better than leaving the oil to ruin beaches and the headlines about toxicity are overblown. Other scientists agree with White that the dispersants are doing more good than harm but the long term effects on marine life and the environment are yet to be determined.
"It's sinking the oil out of sight, out of mind. Dispersant is to disperse it and to sink it down. But when it goes under, how long are we going to have to clean it up? How many years will it come in because it will be coming from the depths?" Ryan Lambert
"While I wish we were in a situation where we didn't have to use dispersants, they are not the most toxic compound. They're metabolized. They're broken down very well by various organisms. And what that means is that our bodies can handle them." LuAnn White
1. What do you know about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
2. What does oil do to the environment?
3. Who decides what is useful and what is safe in regards to the oil spill and its cleanup?
1. What are the two opposing views on using dispersants to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico?
2. How do we know whether any chemical is safe or not?
3. What are the similarities and differences between science in a lab or a classroom and science in nature, such as the Gulf ecosystem?
4. If you worked for BP or the Environmental Protection Agency, how would you clean up the oil disaster?