Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recent testing finds tar balls contain 93% Corexit and watery goop, only 7% oil says chemist

Consumers used to worry about ordering seafood fried, instead of the healthier broiled-or-stewed option, but since the BP spill they're unsure about whether to eat it at all. Independent testing by environmental groups and individuals has accelerated since last April, and they've found toxins -- from oil, dispersants and other sources--in the local catch.

Government agencies, meanwhile, say seafood from reopened, Gulf fishing areas is safe to eat. The upshot for consumers is that when buying fish, ask questions and listen to any information that comes your way.

Peter Brabeck, environmental monitor at the nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said last week, "we received test results a week ago from samples of oysters collected in Terrebonne Bay and Grand Bayou Felicity in Lafourche Parish." Those samples were tested by a Wisconsin lab run by Pace Analytical Services, which also has a sediment-and-water lab in St. Rose, La. The Bucket Brigade sent three, separate samples to Wisconsin, where they were chemically tested in batches of 7 to 9 oysters each.

"To my horror, the results showed extremely elevated levels of cadmium -- which is associated with oil from the BP spill," Brabeck said. The cadmium detected was 150 to 200 times what's considered safe for human consumption by the Environmental Protection Agency's carcinogenicity 'RfD' or oral reference doses for food, he said.

When asked about reference doses, a U.S. EPA spokesman in Washington, said "information can be found at the RfD table on our Integrated Risk Information System web page for cadmium." The agency's RfD for human studies involving chronic, cadmium exposure is 1E-3 mg/kg/day for food. "The E in those numbers refers to exponents in scientific notation," he said. Health information is posted on the agency's IRIS, based on reviews of chronic, toxicity data by EPA scientists.

Brabeck said "the reason we had oysters tested for cadmium is that it's a carcinogen that can linger in the body for 20 to 30 years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Food and Drug Administration labs don't test for it." Manufacturing facilities might have been the source of the cadmium, he said, but added "since these oysters came from a heavily oiled area, I would lean toward them being contaminated from BP's finest."

He continued, "Now we're waiting for lab results to come back on samples of oysters, shrimp, crabs and snails collected in Barataria Bay and Terrebonne Bay." Brabeck visits the coast frequently and ventures into the water. "A week and a half ago in Barataria Bay, the area where I was collecting samples had visible oil sheen, along with weathered mats of oil -- that were over an inch thick in places -- covering the marshes," he said. "Yet these areas were open for fishing, and shrimping boats were in the very same water."

Testing by other environmental groups has yielded worrisome results. Paul Orr, whose title is "River-keeper" at Lower Mississippi River-keeper in Baton Rouge, said his organization -- along with its parent Louisiana Environmental Action Network -- began collecting seafood samples from the coast in early August to analyze the spill's impacts. Oysters, crabs and fin fish were gathered from twenty locations between the western edge of Terrebonne Parish and the Louisiana-Mississippi border. They were tested for total petroleum hydrocarbons or TPHs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. Testing was done by two, commercial-lab companies, using EPA-recognized protocols, Orr said.


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