The FDA Toes the BP Line


There’s another drum beat to the BP oil spill “good news” strategy making the rounds. This time it’s yet another government agency looking on the bright side, with the FDA saying chemical dispersants that BP used have a “low potential” for accumulating in seafood. The statement was in response to a demand from U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat taking a leading role in holding BP’s feet the the fire.

This would never survive any serious cross-examination … “in other words, yes, there IS a potential for accumulating in seafood.”

Meanwhile, the FDA is not even monitoring fish and shellfish for the presence of Corexit, the toxic dispersant of choice for BP, “because it is not considered a health risk.” Rep. Markey rightly points out that we have virtually no information on the dispersant, its actual ingredients were a secret until a couple of weeks ago and pretty much remain a secret except to government researchers at the EPA.

Given how many times non-governmental agencies have been right – and governmental agencies wrong – on the science of the spill, that’s not exactly comforting. And let’s remember that BP continued to use the dispersant even into mid-July.

The FDA and the BP-friendly folks at NOAA, under heavy fire for spinning their latest report to explain away most of the spill, have no chemical tests for the dispersant. They are literally having “sensory experts” smell the fish as a test. Why not just rely on peer-reviewed studies instead of making it up as you go along and relying on the human nose to determine if fish contain dangerous levels of cancer-causing substances. The attached studies might be useful. We also understand that there is strong evidence from Mexican crabs carrying significant levels of PAHs in a region in which dispersants were applied.

My guess is that nobody in the Gulf gives much credibility to any of this, but it’s disconcerting to watch how the national “story” about the Gulf spill shifts in ways that will benefit BP.

The studies are here: Water Sc Tech Risk Paper and BP – PAHs in fish 2005

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