Monday, December 27, 2010

SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS SECTION--Panel challenges Gulf seafood safety all-clear

'It is unethical to experiment with the health of the U.S. population or military members,' toxicologist says

By Kari Huus

A New Orleans law firm is challenging government assurances that Gulf Coast seafood is safe to eat in the wake of the BP oil spill, saying it poses “a significant danger to public health.”

It’s a high-stakes tug-of-war that will almost certainly end up in the courts, with two armies of scientists arguing over technical findings that could have real-world impact for seafood consumers and producers.

Citing what the law firm calls a state-of-the-art laboratory analysis, toxicologists, chemists and marine biologists retained by the firm of environmental attorney Stuart Smith contend that the government seafood testing program, which has focused on ensuring the seafood was free of the cancer-causing components of crude oil, has overlooked other harmful elements. And they say that their own testing — examining fewer samples but more comprehensively — shows high levels of hydrocarbons from the BP spill that are associated with liver damage.

Is dispersant still being sprayed in the gulf?

“What we have found is that FDA simply overlooked an important aspect of safety in their protocol,” contends William Sawyer, a Florida-based toxicologist on Smith’s team. “We now have a sufficient number of samples to provide FDA with probable cause to include such testing, really. They need to go back and test some of their archived samples as well.”

Five months after crude oil stopped gushing from the broken BP wellhead into the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government has reopened more than 90 percent of fishing waters that were in danger of contamination from the broken Deepwater Horizon rig.

“There is no question gulf seafood coming to market is safe from oil or dispersant residue,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in an Oct. 29 statement as the final fisheries reopenings were under way. With a partner agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the FDA said it tested thousands of seafood samples before issuing the “all clear.”


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