Chemical Used to Break Up Oil

With the goal of reducing damage as much as possible, thousands of gallons of dispersants are being used daily in the Gulf of Mexico to break up the oil from the huge oil-rig explosion on April 22. Officials insist the dispersants are “fairly low toxicity,” although environmentalists have raised some concerns about the impact of “toxic soup” on the fragile Gulf ecosystem. Planes spraying dispersants take off from Mississippi every day and drop 60,000 gallons of it into the Gulf—an amount that “significantly outweigh[s]” previous uses of the dispersant. Dispersants are designed to break up the oil into tiny particles, which natural bacteria can then attack. Meanwhile, BP has a different plan of attack to stop the massive oil slick: installing a 70-foot dome that will funnel the oil up to a drilling rig, then pipes will be installed connecting the dome to the rig.