Friday, May 28, 2010, 5/28/2010 11:44:00 AM

Where Trade Secrecy Meets Environmental Risk: Determining Whether to Use Certain Oil Dispersants in the Gulf

By Todd

Andrew Schneider of has written an interesting piece regarding the potential use of a certain oil dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico. He reports that scientists in the U.S., Canada, South America and elsewhere have pleaded with the government not to approve one option for dealing with the massive oil spill: a dispersant that contains unidentified and possibly untested nanoparticles.

The scientists are particularly concerned about nano-based dispersant produced by Green Earth Technologies. He explains the company is not at all subtle about lobbying hard to obtain expedited approval for the use of the nano-dispersant. The company's green logo is a large G with wings with "Save the Earth" on one side and "Sacrifice Nothing" on the other.

But before we throw millions of gallons of this dispersant onto the spill and affected areas - don't we need to know what is actually in this stuff?

That's the focus of this piece and the letter the scientists wrote to the EPA.

"We should not blindly trust a company that will not disclose the exact nature of the manufactured nanomaterials it proposes to dump into the sea. You or I wouldn't trust a stranger who wanted to dump undisclosed chemicals in our backyards, and the EPA shouldn't trust this corporation," said Ian Illuminato, health and environment campaigner for Friends of the Earth, which distributed the letter to EPA.

Apparently in the case of this nano-dispersant, the governement does not know what the ingredients are because the company claims a legal privilege of keeping its composition secret so as to protect their 'confidential business information'. And that's the crux of the dilemma. Doesn't the government and the broader global scientific community have a right to know what exactly they're about to throw in the ocean before they throw it?

This is an interesting piece detailing a rare conflict between trade secret interests and the public interest. You can read it by clicking on the title to this blog post.


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