Gulf Seafood to Be Tested for Dispersants

In the wake of the BP oil spill, federal regulators are finally devising a test to check dispersant levels in seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s hoped that such testing will reassure consumers about the safety of shrimp, crab and other delicacies sourced from the Gulf.

As we’ve reported in the past, BP had been using a line of chemical dispersants called Corexit in unprecedented amounts to break up the Gulf oil spill. According to a report on MSNBC, more than 1.8 million gallons of the dispersants were either pumped into the sea or sprayed on the surface during the disaster. This despite the fact that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told BP to find a less-toxic alternative in June. In fact, the company did not stop using the chemicals until July 18, when it was finally able to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has maintained that Gulf seafood is safe to eat. But that assessment was based on the results of so-called “smell tests.” That testing, which relied on professional seafood assessor to detect odors in seafood, was not focused on dispersants because the FDA had concluded that the chemicals did not pose a health risk, MSNBC said. In reaching that conclusion, the agency pointed to studies that showed poisons found in oil and dispersants do not accumulate in the tissue of fish and other sea life.

But not everyone is convinced. Because of this, the FDA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has decided to devise a lab test to detect traces of the chemical dispersant in seafood. It is unclear however, when the test will be available, MSNBC said.

While some scientists have praised the move to develop a more conclusive tests, they criticized the FDA for not moving to do so before fishing grounds closed due to the oil spill were reopened.

“It’s very late (to start this testing), and it’s premature to open those fishing grounds while they are still developing the test,” Susan Shaw, a toxicologist at the Maine Environmental Research Institute told MSNBC “I know that they are trying to inspire confidence in the seafood and some scientists actually do think that is OK, but I am not one of those scientists.”

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