Press TV
July 16, 2010

BP’s use of chemicals to disperse the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill has become a source of concern for the US, with lawmakers warning of another “Agent Orange” scandal.

Agent Orange is the codename for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the US military in its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.

According to Vietnam Red Cross as many as 3 million Vietnamese people have been affected by Agent Orange including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects.

The US lawmakers at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Thursday urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep a closer eye on the dispersants used by BP to properly analyze their effect on the ocean ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico.

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“I don’t want dispersants to be the Agent Orange of this oil spill and I want to be assured on behalf of the American people that this is OK to use and OK to use in the amounts we’re talking about,” said Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the science panel of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, reported Reuters.

The London-based energy giant applies Corexit to the massive oil slick gathered both on the surface and undersea in the disaster zone.

BP has so far used about 1.8 million gallons of the chemical agent in the Gulf, an amount unprecedented in the US history to be directly applied to the spill.

The EPA said preliminary results of a federal review of Corexit pointed to no impact on marine life.

“The good news is that we’ve not seen signs of environment impacts from the use of dispersants so far,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told legislators, urging more scientific study.

The EPA, however, is still awaiting review of chemical’s effect when mixed with oil, and environmentalists are also concerned.

“I suspect that the toxicity impact will in fact be way worse than reflected by the tests that are being conducted by EPA,” because animals chosen for testing are less sensitive than those inhabiting the Gulf, said Doug Rader, chief oceans scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

New estimates by the International Energy Agency about the BP oil spill suggest that so far at least 2.3-4.5 million barrels of crude have poured into the Gulf of Mexico since the April event, which triggered the worst ecological disaster in US history.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill began after an April 20 explosion at the BP-run Deepwater Horizon rig shattered the well and left 11 people dead.

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