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Key Findings from Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects

Report in Brief

Oil dispersants are chemicals that change the chemical and physical properties of oil to enable it to mix with water more easily, in a similar manner to the way that dish detergents break up cooking oil on a skillet. By increasing the amount of oil that mixes into sea water, dispersants can reduce the potential contamination of shoreline habitats—but at the same time, a larger volume of water at varying depths becomes exposed to spilled oil. This report reviews ongoing research on the use of dispersants as an oil spill response technique and the impact of dispersed oil on marine and coastal ecosystems. The report concludes that more information on the potential benefi ts or adverse impacts of dispersant use is needed to make effective, timely decisions on using dispersants in response to an oil spill.


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