Tomorrow I am going to be talking to Dr. Riki Ott about the impact of oil and dispersants on reproductive health. This afternoon, in preparation for that, I spoke to her assistant, Lisa Marie Jacobs who shared a few thoughts that are going to make it awfully difficult to sleep tonight.
One of the ingredients in Corexit, the dispersant BP is using in the Gulf is 2-ButoxyEthanol. It is being used in massive quantities in the Gulf, more than 700,000 gallons so far. But guess what, chances are you have some 2-ButoxyEthanol under the sink in your kitchen or out in the garage because it is a common ingredient in cleaners, car wax and paint primer. The National Institute of Health has a handy list of all the places you might find this toxic stuff here. And here is why you worry about this stuff:
People exposed to high levels of 2-butoxyethanol for several hours reported irritation of the nose and eyes, headache, a metallic taste in their mouths, and vomiting. No harmful effects were seen on their lungs or hearts. People who swallowed large amounts of cleaning agents containing 2-butoxyethanol have shown breathing problems, low blood pressure, low levels of hemoglobin (the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to organs of the body), acidic blood, and blood in the urine.
It is not known whether 2-butoxyethanol or 2-butoxyethanol acetate can affect reproduction or cause birth defects in people.
Animal studies have shown hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells that results in the release of hemoglobin) from exposure to 2-butoxyethanol and 2-butoxyethanol acetate. High doses of 2-butoxyethanol can also cause reproductive problems and minor birth defects in animals.
The Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and Environmental Protection Agency have not classified 2-butoxyethanol and 2-butoxyethanol acetate as to their human carcinogenicity.
No carcinogenicity studies on 2-butoxyethanol and 2-butoxyethanol acetate are available in people or animals.
Sounds like reason enough to empty your cabinets and take that stuff to the nearest hazardous dump (and don’t even think about just throwing it in the trash). But then try to imagine 700,000 gallons of that stuff in our oceans. Feeling sick yet?
Postscript: A few hours after I spoke with Ms. Jacobs, I was at the grocery store picking up a few things. The clerk was about to spray the scanner with disinfectant before scanning my produce. I opted to take the risk of the bacteria rather than the chemicals.