Using dispersants to clean pollution that resides in the ocean has direct consequences that harms life living in it, as well as outside of it. Unintentional harm from several techniques cleaning the seas can hinder or even kill unsuspecting marine life, especially from said dispersants. Regardless of the method of cleaning, harm will still be added, and in the case of dispersants being used to make the ocean appear cleaner, it actually is making more harm happen.
When pollution is being cleaned, one could argue that the amount of waste added as well as the damage dealt doesn’t compare to the amount of pollution that is being cleaned, as more good is being done than harm. Although that is true, many lives within the ocean will be harmed in potentially more severe ways. With the example of oil nets that clean up oil spills or emissions from aquatic vehicles, although there exists chances of animals being harmed, a good quantity of pollutants is being taken out of the environment. While this is mostly positive, the few lives in question would be snuffed out due to these efforts. It would be unfair as well as cruel to dismiss the possibility of loss of life, no matter if the loss in question is a fish or bird.
Dispersants are chemicals in which they are poured on oil spills, “dispersing” the pollution so that it appears to be clean, however there very well may be more harm than benefits with this method. With a notable quote from “One Green Planet,” “While it would be nice to believe that dispersants rid the ocean of oil forever, the truth of the matter is that dispersants do not reduce the amount of oil entering the environment. Instead, they literally just push the problem (a combination of oil AND chemicals) underwater where we can’t see them …” and “ Not only does it appear that our methods of cleaning up oil spills are ineffective, but the chemicals used in dispersants are also damaging marine life. Dispersants wreak havoc in ocean environments, and have proven to be harmful to many marine organisms.” These quotes show the dangers and effects of a single type of “rescue” people use to clean up oil spills.These dispersants spread the oil to eventually settle on the seabed, where it causes arguably more harm than it did on the surface. From being in the same environment as these harmful chemicals and toxins, marine life become not only tainted but also hindered by these toxins, passing the harmful effects to human were they caught and ingested. The effects of a product of humans seeking to help the ocean and those who benefit and live within it inadvertently negatively impacts the beings who are dedicated to it.
Dispersants deployed on oil spills near coral reefs may be more harmful to them than the oil itself. Done by an organization publishing their research on “ACS Publications”, a group of scientists and oceanographers revealed that dispersants were more harmful to coral than crude oil. “The dispersed oil and the dispersants were significantly more toxic than crude oil WSFs.” alongside a series of tests, this was the conclusion they discovered. Perhaps a good analogy to this overall topic would be for one to metaphorically look tat the sky of a polluted city. Although there is a blue sky and everything seems ok, it isn’t possible to see pollution in the sky with the naked eye. This goes for dispersants; although oil spills appear to be gone, they are really just dissipated throughout the water setting up the possibility to cause more harm. Again, the opposition to my overall thesis is that more good may be done than harm in the overall scheme of cleaning ocean pollution with the use of dispersants.
When the biggest crude oil spill in history struck the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum used dispersants in order to clean the pollution. Based off their thinking, the huge crisis had been completely solved, as noone could see it anymore! According to the “United States Environmental Protection Agency,” the dispersants used were completely harmless to human life. On their government website, there is an entire section dedicated to discussing the dispersants used on the spill, and the effects of them. “Dispersants are generally less toxic than oil. When considering the use of a dispersant in the deep ocean, the federal government weighs the effectiveness of the dispersant in breaking down the oil at such depths, the benefits of preventing the oil from rising to the surface and eventually hitting the shore where it is likely to do significant damage to birds, wetlands and aquatic life, and the long term impacts of the dispersant mixed with oil in deeper waters.” Due to this statement, a reader could be convinced that the method and chemicals used to clean the BP oil spill was completely ethical and logical, especially given that the EPA said it was completely fine. Although this is a more “shallow” take on the effects of dispersants on crude oil spills, it does not grasp the entirety of the impact that dispersants have. The true nature of dispersants and their effect on the environment are much more severe than simply clearing the spills. Nevertheless, the stance that the EPA has on British Petroleum using dispersants on their oil spill could be a possible counterargument in saying that dispersants are fine since the EPA said so, even though that may not be the case.
Perhaps another case for refuting my claim is that when dispersants are used on oil spills, the oil that was initally harming animals are nowhere to be seen, completely dissipated throughout the water. Explained by “Marine Life Article” talking about how dispersants work, the types of them, as well as how “beneficial” they are, it completely neglects to talk about how disastrous they really are for marine life and the ocean in general. This claim is completely untrue, as although the oil spill appears clean it actually was just broken down, spreading throughout the ocean in small globules which not only spread the maladies of the pollution ever further, it also is more easier for wildlife in the ocean to consume it and become effected negatively by it. Furthered by my point about how ocean pollution can harm humans, this can be related to the use of dispersants as humans who are unlucky enough to eat marine life that have become contaminated through eating the globules caused by the dispersants will inevitably gain health problems, all leading back to the dispersants them self. This is very much the opposite to what is wanted when trying to save and preserve the ocean. Although it may appear good for an organization in the media to be associated with “cleaning the ocean”, there is virtually no benefit to this method other than the waters appearing cleaner. In actuality the waters are being polluted even more than if the oil were to just sit on the surface.
- “The Weird Way Cleaning Up Oil Spills Can Actually Harm Animals.” One Green Planet, 17 Dec. 2014, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/the-weird-way-cleaning-up-oil-spills-can-actually-harm-animals/
- “Pressure Swing Adsorption.” ACS Publications, pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ie0109758
- Anish. “Different Types of Dispersants Used in an Oil Spill.” Marine Insight, Marine Insight, 20 Nov. 2017, http://www.marineinsight.com/environment/different-types-of-dispersants-used-in-an-oil-spill/
- “Dispersant Use in BP Oil Spill.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, archive.epa.gov/emergency/bpspill/web/html/dispersants-qanda.html#list.