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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey Releases FDA Seafood Response Indicating Low Chance of Dispersant-Contamination in the Gulf

Questions remain on long-term effects on food chain and marine life

August 5, 2010 – Today Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, released a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicating that the agency determined that chemical dispersants used to combat the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have a low potential for bioaccumulation in seafood species and do not pose a significant public health risk through human consumption. Rep. Markey is still awaiting an FDA analysis responding to his inquiry regarding reports of arsenic and other toxic byproducts of the BP oil spill that may pose a greater risk of bioaccumulating in seafood meant for human consumption.

“This bit of good news is a great first step in restoring public confidence in the safety of seafood from the Gulf region,” said Rep. Markey. “However, many significant questions still remain on the long-term consequences that these dispersant chemicals will have on the marine food chain. Now that the oil has stopped flowing vigilance in monitoring must continue to ensure that tainted seafood never makes it to the dinner table.”

Response letter from the FDA
Chairman Markey's original letter to the FDA

Long concerned about health and environmental issues relating to the dispersants, Rep. Markey has written to the EPA, FDA and the Coast Guard questioning the use of unprecedented volumes of dispersants in the Gulf, as the chemicals had not undergone a thorough review of their toxicity or effects. After receipt of one of Markey’s first letters written on May 17th the EPA along with the Coast Guard directed BP to eliminate surface application of the chemicals except in “rare cases” for which exemptions had to be requested. Data released by Rep. Markey’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee staff just last week indicated that these “rare cases” occurred on a daily basis since the directive was issued.

On several occasions EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has also raised serious concerns about the unknown effects of dispersants, characterizing them as an “environmental tradeoff.” The most recent data released by EPA earlier this week indicates that while the chemicals do not appear to be acutely toxic, the long term effects these chemicals will have on the Gulf of Mexico are still unknown.

Just yesterday NOAA and the Department of the Interior jointly released a report indicating that only 8% of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico was chemically dispersed. This data suggests that dispersants were highly ineffective, since every gallon of dispersant used only dispersed just over 9 gallons of oil. By contrast, the report said that 16% of the oil was naturally dispersed without the use of these chemicals. 

“I remain concerned about the long-term consequences that these dispersants mixed with oil and other toxic materials will have on our waters and on our health.” said Rep. Markey. “Continued safety and oversight of the seafood in the Gulf will protect families while helping the regions fishing and tourism industries recover.”

PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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