For most of you, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill ended long ago. This April will mark 10 years since the disaster. The oil that marred our sugar white beaches disappeared, but for many, the disaster is very much on going. Many say the oil and the chemicals used to make that oil disappear so quickly caused chronic illnesses, and to make matters worse, the government still sanctions the use of it.
For Coden resident Lori Bosarge, first came the blistering rashes, then kidney and liver complications followed by abnormal brain scans. Bosarge says her health problems started after coming into contact with the chemical Corexit, a dispersant used in the aftermath of the 2010 BP spill to break down large oil slicks on the water's surface. Less than two million gallons was sprayed from above and released below the surface.
"I just, I stay tired," said Bosarge. "I'll never really be well."
"How many people do you know that have gotten sick from the BP oil spill?" asked NBC 15's Andrea Ramey.
"Hundreds," replied Bosarge.
"We're talking literally hundreds of thousands of people," said marine toxicologist Riki Ott, PhD.
Study after study has linked health problems to dispersants. Yet, to this day, dispersants like Corexit remain on the EPA's list of available products for use during an oil spill, something Ott is trying to change. The EPA says listing a product on the national contingency plan for an oil spill does not constitute EPA approval, recommendation or authorization of use of any product.
"Dispersants have been the go-to, sort of the red herring, ‘oh, this stuff works. It just disappears. It goes away.’ We know now it doesn't go away. And it does more harm than good," said Ott.
Ott's non-profit group the Alert Project is not only suing the EPA to get the government to stop condoning the use of dispersants. It's also advocating people engage local emergency planning groups, encouraging change from the ground up.
"What if the local groups now know that local people are going to get sick if they use it? What if we started pushing back up to national and say no, it's too risky for us," said Ott.
The Coast Guard says it knows about early studies linking dispersants to health issues and is waiting on future studies. In the meantime, the Coast Guard says dispersants will still be an option for responding to an oil spill. Due to ongoing litigation, BP says it has no comment about the use of Corexit.