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BP’s Corexit Increases Uptake of Endocrine Disruptors in Fish – What Will It Do to People?

Dead fish, courtesty of dottyoliver

Today, BP claims it must keep hiding dispersing its oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico with its subsidiary’s product, Corexit, because the alternative dispersants could be endocrine disruptors. One nasty form of endocrine disruptor is called PAH. In the real world, we’ve known since 2004 that the very same Corexit that BP has been pouring into the gulf for more than a month increases fishes’ PAH uptake from crude oil. In other words, BP’s Corexit increases uptake of crude-oil endocrine disruptors in fish, contradicting BP’s claim.

Why care? Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic the effect of our bodies’ natural hormones. Exposure to endocrine disruptors (EDs) has been shown to increase the risk of cancers of hormone-dependent tissues (including breast cancer), infertility and other reproductive problems, as well as developmental defects and low birth weight.

BP has poured who knows how much Corexit into the Gulf. How has the Corexit altered uptake of endocrine disruptors in shrimp? In humans?

And while we’re asking: Why is the EPA allowing BP to conduct a vast, unregulated experiment on the effect of dumping thousands of gallons of chemicals never tested for long-term toxic effects on humans into the same gulf near where millions of humans live and from which millions of others obtain (or obtained) their seafood?

Who’s in charge here? BP’s negligent, lethal management, or a Secretary of the Interior with a history of winking at toxic extractive industries when he was Senator?

Following the announcement of the right wing rogues’ gallery which would serve as Obama’s cabinet, the appointment of Ken Salazar, a well known shill for the oil and gas industry, elicited comparatively little comment.

Among the few who managed to express their outrage was Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity who described Salazar as “a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agricultural interests in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species.” (See also Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Ken Salazar and the Tragedy of the Common Ground” and Obama’s Used Green Team and Phillip Doe’s “The Man in the Hat“.)

In the end, is there any practical difference between BP’s management and Obama’s Salazar?

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2004 Nov;59(3):300-8.

Oil dispersant increases PAH uptake by fish exposed to crude oil

Ramachandran SD, Hodson PV, Khan CW, Lee K.

School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont., Canada K7L 3N6.


The use of oil dispersants is a controversial countermeasure in the effort to minimize the impact of oil spills. The risk of ecological effects will depend on whether oil dispersion increases or decreases the exposure of aquatic species to the toxic components of oil. To evaluate whether fish would be exposed to more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) in dispersed oil relative to equivalent amounts of the water-accommodated fraction (WAF), measurements were made of CYP1A induction in trout exposed to the dispersant (Corexit 9500), WAFs, and the chemically enhanced WAF (dispersant; CEWAF) of three crude oils. The crude oils comprised the higher viscosity Mesa and Terra Nova and the less viscous Scotian Light. Total petroleum hydrocarbon and PAH concentrations in the test media were determined to relate the observed CYP1A induction in trout to dissolved fractions of the crude oil. CYP1A induction was 6- to 1100-fold higher in CEWAF treatments than in WAF treatments, with Terra Nova having the greatest increase, followed by Mesa and Scotian Light. Mesa had the highest induction potential with the lowest EC50 values for both WAF and CEWAF. The dispersant Corexit was not an inducer and it did not appear to affect the permeability of the gill surface to known inducers such as beta-napthoflavone. These experiments suggest that the use of oil dispersants will increase the exposure of fish to hydrocarbons in crude oil.

PMID: 15388269 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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Kirk Murphy

Kirk Murphy

terrestrial obligate aerobe with endoskeleton (bony) and bilateral symmetry.

chordate, bipedal, warm-blooded, mammalian, placental (origin), opposable thumbs.

not (yet) extinct.

indigenous habitat: California Live Oak.

current habitat: Central California Coast (most northerly aspect).... 'northwest of the new world, east of the sea'

potential habitats: all potential habitats critically endangered (due to global climate change).

ailurophilic - hence allergic rhinitic.