Chemical Dispersants and Crude Oil - Efficacy and Toxicity

One of the striking controversies about the massive BP Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout has been alarm raised about chemical dispersants used to hold spilled crude oil deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Prospects for oil’s direct harm to the environment, the economy, and coastal society were immediately obvious. But why were people so concerned that dispersing the oil was bad—worse than allowing it to come onshore? Is this just a case of “out of sight, out of mind” to benefit the oil company, or are there larger benefits that reduce the harms to other interests?

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