Dispersants Working to Break Up Oil, No Negative Consequences for Workers



Nalco Chief Technology Officer Dr. Manian Ramesh welcomed the Federal government's assertion that the use of dispersants has resulted in "no exposure levels to any chemicals that are of any concern."

At Wednesday's daily press briefing by National Incident Commander Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, commented that OSHA's monitoring program to protect the health of oil spill cleanup workers has not found any problems from chemical exposure:

"We have been taking samples again of worker chemical exposures," said Barab. "Again, on the beaches, in the swamps, on the boats, everywhere that workers are. And I will just let you know, we can discuss this a little more, that we have found no exposure levels to any chemicals that are of any concern.

"The main problem we've been seeing down there, the main concern that we've had for worker health and safety has to do with heat. As you know, people are working in very high heat conditions. Very often they are also working with Tyvek suits with chemical protective suits, gloves, which exacerbates the heat problem. We've had a number of incidents that we've had to deal with with heat including some hospitalizations. So we're very concerned about that in conjunction with fatigue problems from the long hours that people are working."

Also on Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the first peer reviewed, analytical summary report about the subsea monitoring in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead. That report concludes dispersants are successfully breaking the oil up into small droplets and that dissolved oxygen levels in the study area are comparable to usual levels. It further states, "There is no evidence to suggest significant oil accumulation at density boundaries or discontinuities in the water column below the sea surface mixed layer."

A press release announcing the report noted the role of dispersants in the strategy "to prevent more oil from impacting the Gulf Coast's fragile wetlands, marshes and beaches by breaking up the oil and speeding its natural degradation offshore."

"We are pleased to see continued scientific review and analysis of conditions in the Gulf," said Dr. Ramesh. "We fully support rigorous monitoring of the environment and public health as part of the national effort to respond to the spill."

Nalco continues to support any decisions on dispersant use made by the Joint Incident Command that responders believe will improve the situation in the Gulf.