NOAA Official Asks EIN News to Withdraw Story Questioning Safety of Gulf Seafood


A U.S. government spokesperson reacted sharply today (Nov. 5) to an EIN News story questioning the safety of Gulf seafood, saying “the veracity of the federal government seafood safety protocol or results are not in question by any qualified scientist.” EIN News said it stands by its story.

The official, Christine Patrick, the lead public affairs officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, demanded that EIN News withdraw its story.

NOAA and the Federal Food and Drug Administration earlier this week issued a joint statement giving the “all clear” to the consumption of Gulf of Mexico seafood.

The agencies based their approval on what they said were tests on 1,735 tissue samples including more than half of those collected to reopen Gulf of Mexico federal waters.

The agencies said only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs, and oysters. The test detects dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, known as DOSS, a major component of the dispersants used in the Gulf.

But contrary to Ms. Patrick’s claim that “the results are not in question by any qualified scientist,” the scientific community has expressed concerns that the federal government has been too quick to help the Gulf fishery get back on its feet after the massive BP oil spill.

The DOSS safety “threshold” itself is controversial among scientists and represents a compromise with many authorities who believe it should be higher.

The Environmental Protection Agency asked BP to stop using the dispersant Corexit 9527 because of short- and long-term concerns about its toxicity. Following the Exxon Valdez disaster, Corexit 9527 was associated with severe health problems suffered by thousands of clean-up workers.

The dispersants are known to kill incubating sea life. In humans, long-term exposure can cause central nervous system problems or damage blood, kidneys, or livers, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the EPA’s concerns, Corexit 9527 was used until supplies ran out, and then was replaced with Corexit 9500. Both are products of Nalco Energy Services LP, whose board of directors is made up of former and current BP, Exxon, Monsanto, and Lockheed executives. Nalco is a corporate affiliate of BP.

The FDA-NOAA statement made no mention of tests for PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). These are cancer-causing chemicals in crude oil and can be taken in through fish and shellfish.

A recent assessment of long-term effects of the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound concluded that that chemically-dispersed oil was far more toxic than physically dispersed oil and that PAHs in the water column were the primary cause.

The FDA-NOAA statement also failed to discuss the heavy metals found in oil itself. Heavy metals are trace contaminants in the crude oil, but they bioaccumulate up the food chain. Larger, predator fish could potentially pick up a significant amount of heavy metals from the oil contaminants, and mercury and lead are toxic to the brain and nervous system.

Many scientists are concerned that levels of some of these chemicals will increase through the food chain over time, resulting in worse problems with food safety several years from now.

Based on available literature EIN News supports its original story, will not withdraw it, and invites members of the scientific community to offer their opinions.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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