Researchers at the University of Alabama recently published a study suggesting that Corexit EC9500A, the primary oil dispersant used in the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is causing major harm to the local eco-system.
According to the study, Corexit damages epithelium cells in both humans and marine animals.
The study was published in PLOS ONE this week and studied the effect that the chemical had on the bodies of humans, zebrafish, and blue crabs.
“There were some 48,000 workers involved in the cleanup operations, and it is possible that workers were exposed to Corexit via inhalation.
Cough, shortness of breath and sputum production were among symptoms expressed by workers,” Veena Antony, one of the researchers said.
According to the study, “The evidence that Corexit causes structural and functional abnormalities in airway tissue includes dispersant-induced cell detachment, edema, contraction in cell diameter and increased permeability.”
“Corexit exposure led to an increase in NOX4 activation, and there is evidence that the increase of NOX4 is tied to increased apoptosis. On the other hand, HO-1 was also activated following Corexit exposure. We also noted that the introduction of HO-1 following injury served to remediate the effects of that injury,” Antony added.
At the time of the spill, many activists had spoken out against the use of Corexit, but it was used indiscriminately anyway, as if it was the only option. It is possible that these new studies could help to prevent this toxic chemical from being used in the future.
“In summary, our results indicate that respiratory epithelial surfaces across phylogenetic species are sensitive to injury by Corexit. However, the enzyme HO-1 protects against inflammation and cell death induced by Corexit. Unfortunately, the likelihood of another oil spill is high, and the need to use dispersal agents will remain.
We propose that upregulating HO-1 may offer a novel therapeutic approach for treating dispersant-induced injury and apo’ptosis by enhancing the antioxidant and anti-apoptotic ability of the epithelium,” Antony said.
The video below is several years old, but it shows a prior independent study conducted by engineer Marco Kaltofen, which also shows the effects of Corexit.