Rena – Dispersant Disappearing in Seafood

Thank you for viewing my presentation. Here's what I would like to know from you: How long did you wait after the oil spill before you ate or purchased local seafood again? Was this change of habit because of the dispersants used or the oil in general? When purchasing seafood currently do you ask if the seafood is local or not?

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On Thursday, April 21, 2011, at
9:00–10:15 a.m., I will be online to interact with you live via Facebook or e-mail depending on what works best for you. I’m looking forward to communicating with you at that time. Thank you!

- Rena

INFORMATIVE SPEECH- Final Draft, April 13, 2011

(1)   Rena Nord

(2)   Dispersant Disappearing in Seafood?

(3)   To inform

(4)   As a result of my presentation, my audience will be able to explain the usage of dispersants, the difference between natural and chemical dispersants, how dispersants are applied, and the effect dispersants have had on seafood.


[PP: Cover Slide] Does anyone know of the amount of chemical dispersants actually used during the Gulf Coast Oil spill, is the question.  The FDA says a total of 1.8 million gallons of dispersants were used on the Gulf by June 2010.  So my concern is? They have used such an abundance amount of dispersant, where did the dispersants disappear too? Our seafood maybe?

[PP: headlines]Over the last 10 months dispersants were used to help control the oil spill and they have been getting bad media attention for having bad effects on the environment including the seafood. For example, CNN headlines: Corexit is Poisoning The Gulf, Marine Life, Workers and Public!!!  and The New York Times website headlined Oil Spill Dispersants Shifting Ecosystem Impacts in Gulf, Scientists Warn. However there are some mixed opinions on the affects of the dispersants. Some say the oil spill would have been more devastating to the coastline and to wildlife if dispersants were not used. So what is a dispersant?

[PP: storage] Nalco, the manufacturer of Corexit 9500, describes Corexit on their website, as “one" of the dispersants used in the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, as “a relatively common product used to clean and control oil spills in the ocean; they are a special fluid chemical that bonds to the oil molecules and separate them from water molecules-thus breaking up the oil.” 

 [PP: seafood] I would like to ask you to raise your hand if you eat seafood.   Keep your hands raised if you have avoided seafood from the gulf since the oil spill.  And keep your hand up if the dispersants were the reason for your avoidance?  Thank you, you may put your hands down.

Well, I will have to confess I am a seafood eater too, I like it all raw oysters, shrimp, crawfish, crab legs, you name it I like it. But I did it; I stopped eating seafood from the gulf altogether after the oil spill, just to be on the safe side. After a few months past I did begin to eat the gulf seafood again, well until recently when I heard about the uncertainty of the dispersants and their long term effects.  

Today, I will discuss the usage of dispersants, the difference between natural and chemical dispersants, how the chemical dispersants were applied, and the effect dispersants have on seafood.


I.                   Usage

Michael Bolger, the Chief of the Chemical Hazards Assessment Team  for the FDA wrote a memo to his Supervisor  in May 2010 describing the dispersants as a specially designed oil spill product to enhance the natural process of dispersion.  And later in his report he references dish soap as a comparison to how a dispersant works, this comparison is where I pictured one of the old dawn dishwashing liquid commercials and I would like to share a brief one with you. [PP: youtube]  So I gave you a general idea of what dispersant are and what they are suppose to do to oil.  And that was?  To help clean up the oil spill similarly as to using dish soap. So if dispersants are similar to dish soap that means it leaves the grease and gunk in the water, right? Well, I know when I wash dishes with dish soap the grease and gunk doesn’t disappear, it stays in the water. 

II.                Dispersion

[pp: blank]So what is the definition of dispersing?  Dispersing is defined by as:  to break up and scatter in all directions; spread about; distribute widely.  Nowhere does it say makes stuff disappear. 

A.    Natural dispersion

Now, Dispersion can happen naturally. Dispersion in reference to an oil spill happens when the waves and winds are sufficient to make enough energy to break up the oil into smaller droplets.  To have natural dispersion there has to be moderate rough seas to create the energy needed.

B.     Chemical dispersants

Now if we recall Bolger’s definition for chemical dispersants as:  specially designed oil spill product to enhance the natural process of dispersion. By applying the chemical dispersants to the oil it is chemically enhances the energy that is needed to break the oil up into smaller droplets.  This makes applying chemical dispersants a benefit in the efforts of cleaning up the oil spill.

 The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation informs in an article “Dispersants” that chemical dispersants can be an effective method of response to an oil spill because it is capable of rapidly removing large amounts of certain oil types from the surface.  There are multiple ways of applying the chemical dispersants.

III.             Application

Most dispersants are designed to be sprayed directly onto the oil. This can be by[PP: plane] plane flying at a low altitude, by[PP: boat]  boat vessel with arm sprayers or by[PP: shoreline] a hose along the shoreline. [PP: all application] None of these methods have been proving to better than the other, as long as the dispersants are applied in a uniformed method over the thickest part of the oil slick.  However a new method was tried with the Gulf Coast Oil Spill as they applied dispersants directly [PP: underwater] to the wellhead under the water.

A.    Other areas

With the concern of the usage of dispersants and the uncertainty of the long term affects according to researchers, environmentalist, and media.  I was shocked to find information on the NOAA website stating that similar Corexit dispersants were used during the [PP: ixtoc] Ixtoc I spill in 1979 and [PP: valdez] Valdez spill in 1989.  The application was identical to the GCOS by aircraft, boat vessel, or shoreline in both spills minus the underwater application.

B.     History

So we have about thirty years of history of usage of dispersants being used on oil spills and supposedly we still do not have an idea of the long term effects the dispersants will have on our environment. Makes you wonder, right?  Me too.  I know I still ate Alaskan snow crabs since 1989, with no hesitation and I have eaten fish from the Gulf as long as I can remember which if the Ixtoc happened 1979, ummm, let me change the subject before I tell my age.

 I have explained how the dispersant are applied, what the dispersants are designed for and I have also informed you that the Gulf Coast Oil Spill was not the first time dispersants were used, the only thing that separates the old oil spills and the GCOS is the new method of directly applying the dispersant to the wellhead.

IV.             Seafood Safety

Between all the government agencies and environmentalist our seafood that we consume is being monitored and tested to assure it is safe. 

A.    9/11

[PP: Lafouche] August 2010, Tasha Eichenseher, Environment Editor of the National Geographic Digital Media mentions in her blog after eating in [PP: map] Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, a quote from a local Mr. Randolph,  she states, “you would never know there were health concerns when you sit down to eat with the locals” “this is the safest seafood in the world.  It’s like flying after 9-11, states Mr. Randolph at dinner.”  Every governmental agency, non-profit agencies, scientist, environmentalist, educationalist… are performing some kind of research, now it’s just a matter of compiling the information and making it useful. B. Testing

Water testing is one way to ensure seafood safety. The EPA and FDA are monitoring the water and seafood for contamination.   [PP:Testtubes] FDA states as of July 19, 2010 every seafood sample that was taken from reopened waters had passed testing.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analyzed 2,195 water samples, in mid-July in random areas throughout the Gulf where the oil spill had impacted and only two water samples showed a dispersant component.  Both samples were taken close to the wellhead on June 3 and June 5, as reported in a FDA Seafood Safety document.

1.      Although the waters that have been tested and are deemed safe.  Some marine organisms have tested with high toxicity, these organisms were found close to well-head or where the dispersants were directly dispersed (FDA, Laboratory Information Bulletin).

2.       Samples of Oyster are tested for 120 chemical and microbial contaminants including 60 oil-related compound to determine if they are tainted (FDA, Laboratory Information Bulletin).

3.      Sniffing the seafood  for the presence of oil and dispersant chemicals by specially trained seafood inspectors is a test that is also being performed by the NOAA (NOAA).

 NOAA states they are conducting additional studies to reaffirm that dispersant do not constitute a threat of accumulation in tissues of fish and shellfish.  But as to date July 2010, says they have found no evidence in the Gulf seafood.

V.                Local

[PP: Joe Pattis]Although all precautions were being taking by the governmental agencies to ensure the safety of seafood consumption, Frank Patti shares a moment around the first of May 2010, when the waters began to close in this area he began to wonder what the future would hold for his family business of over 75 years, the only lifestyle he knew.  At that time, he said he had to think of “safety first” and began ordering food from other places, which he said he can’t recall ever having to have seafood shipped in. Normally he just jumps in the boat and get it, fresh. Frank Patti says business is gradually making a comeback, but wants to let everyone know the seafood that he has in his store if safe from oil or dispersant contamination.


Today we discussed a few things about 1.8 million gallons dispersants reported by FDA that was used in the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, the how the dispersants are designed to be sprayed directly onto the oil. [PP: all application]This can be by plane flying at a low altitude, by boat vessel with arm sprayers or hose and also by a hose along the shoreline. Applying the dispersants directly to the oil underwater as being a new concept and the effects are unknown. We talked about how the dispersants should affect the oil by speeding up the natural dispersion by adding the chemical dispersant it speeds up the energy need to break up the oil into smaller droplets. I gave you information from two governmental environmentalist agencies that supports that dispersant are currently not found in any seafood that has been tested. Remember the quote Lafourche Parish Presidents Charlotte Randolph husbands remarks at a dinner; this is the safest seafood in the world.  It’s like flying after 9-11.” 

For me, after researching the dispersants and finding out that dispersants have been used in all major oil spills, like the 1979 Ixtoc I and Valdez 1989 oil spill, I find it hard to believe how our government and environmentalist are uncertain of the effects dispersants will have on the environment. [PP: ecosystem] The environment hasn’t died completely and the marine life has recovered in the past, so I am hopeful it will do the same this time. I guess I have a mindset to say, yes, it may not be the best thing for the environment or the marine life, but either [pp: pollution] is driving a car and we all do that every day without worrying about the harmful effects that has on the environment.  I like to think of the use of dispersants to be similar to the “catch 22” phrase, it was bad that we use them but what would it be like if we didn’t?  



Bolger, M. P. (2010, May 14) Chemical Hazard Assessment Team, HFS-301  Memorandum Retrieved February 22, 2011 from, defined Dispersing. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

Eichenseher, T. Blue Legacy. (2010, August 23) Gulf Seafood With A Side Of Oil Dispersants Retrieved March 6, 2011 from, http://www.Alexandracousteau.Org/Field/Expedition-Blog/Gulf-Seafood-Side-Oil-Dispersants

FDA. Laboratory Information Bulletin. Retrieved from

FDA. Seafood Safety and Dispersants. Retrieved from

Khaner, K. (Ed.). (2010). The year in review. Calamity in the Gulf.  New York, NY: Time Books. 

Nalco.  Retrieved February 11, 2011. From

NOAA.  Incident News. (1979, June 3) “Countermeasures/ Mitigation”. Retrieved March 2, 2011,

NOAA. Incident News.  (1989, Mar 24) T/V Exxon Valdez.  Retrieved March 2, 2011,

Patti, Frank. Personal Communication. March 10, 2011.