Chemical warfare

Dispersants are dispersed


A plane drops dispersant chemicals onto the oil spill. Floating on the surface of the gulf, the oil has a reddish color in this photograph.

BP is also using chemicals called “dispersants” to fight the oil. Dispersants work like soap, making the oil less sticky, and breaking it up so that microbes can consume it more easily. Like the oil, however, dispersants themselves can be toxic. Also, the oil from this leak is particularly thick and heavy, and the dispersants aren’t as effective here as they have been in other spills.

Despite the hard work of many people, the amount of oil already released from the well is more than we can completely control or clean, and only time will tell its full impact on the Gulf of Mexico and the surrounding ecosystems and communities.