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Oil spill clean-up chemicals: What are they?

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Secrecy surrounds clean-up operations, academic experts & environmental activists demand to know. 

ENVIRONMENT

Alarm bells sound over oil spill dispersant use

PTTGC admits chemicals risk environmental harm

31/07/2013

Paritta Wangkiat

Experts are worried the chemical dispersants being used in the oil spill clean-up operation in Rayong province could cause environmental damage.

They have urged PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) to reveal what type of dispersants are being used.

Their call came after Pollution Control Department chief Wichian Jungrungreon admitted yesterday that using dispersants could harm the environment.

PTTGC has remained silent about what chemicals it is using but also said they could pose a hazard to the environment and people's health.

"There is no option," Mr Wichian said. "The massive oil spill and windy conditions prevent us from using booms to contain the spill.

"Dispersants are the last resort in this situation."

Lack of information about the chemicals has prompted experts to pressure authorities and PTTGC to provide more details.

"It's important to know what chemicals they are and how much is being used so we can decide on measures to prevent possible negative impacts," Arpa Wangkiat, a professor at Rangsit University's environmental engineering department, said.

"Don't leave questions to society. Disaster management should not be left in the hands of one participant."

Ms Arpa said her studies have found the use of dispersants can result in environmental damage and health problems.

Environmental activists suspect PTTGC might be using Corexit to tackle the Rayong oil slick because it is commonly used worldwide.

In 2012, a study found that Corexit increases the toxicity of oil by 52 times. It can remain in the ecological food chain for many years and cause widespread and long-lasting health impacts.

"The use of dispersants is a solution that creates new and worse problems," Ms Arpa said.

The main ingredients of Corexit include 2-Butoxyethanol which can comprise up to 60% of the dispersant and is known to harm the blood, kidneys, liver and central nervous system.

Experts say the substance can also cause cancer, birth defects and has been found to cause genetic mutations.

It is also a delayed chronic health hazard as well as an environmentally hazardous material.

Pornsri Mingkwan, directonr of the Pollution Control Department's marine environment division, said PTTGC has sought permission to use 32,000 litres of a dispersant called Slickgone NS since the spill occurred on Saturday.

However, the dispersant is ineffective in tackling oil slicks more than 48 hours after a spill occurs, she said.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a leading marine biologist at Kasetsart University, wrote on his Facebook page that the use of dispersants should be avoided in seas where the water is about 20m deep or less.

This was because dispersed oil could come into contact with the sea bed and cause negative effects on the benthic organisms that live there, he wrote.

He called on the authorities to check the depth of the sea off Rayong.

He also urged authorities to clarify which agency had allowed the use of dispersants on Sunday.

Pisut Painmanakul, also of Chulalongkorn University's environmental engineering department, said the Rayong oil spill could lead to a similar problem which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 when Corexit was primarily used to deal with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Officials took three months to deal with the oil slick there but scientists have said the toxic chemical remains in the ecological system.

Samai Kungsaworn, director of the Office of Diseases Prevention Control 3 which oversees Rayong, said local health units have reported four patients complaining of dizziness since the oil spill on Saturday.

The cases could possibly be linked to the oil's pungent smell in the area, he said.

He has advised locals to stay away from the shore because the smell could cause respiratory problems.

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Vocabulary:

activist: someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change, especially someone who is a member of an organisation - นักกิจกรรม

admit: to agree that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it - ยอมรับ

advise: to tell somebody what you think they should do in a particular situation - แนะนำ, แจ้ง

agency: a government department that provides a particular service - หน่วยงานราชการ

alarm: a loud noise or a signal that warns people of danger or of a problem - สัญญาณเตือนภัย

authorities: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

biologist: a scientist who studies biology - นักชีววิทยา

birth defect: when a baby is born with some body part that is not normal (a defect) - ความพิการของทารกแรกเกิด

boom: a long pole - ไม้ขวางที่ผูกข้างเรือ

cancer: a serious disease in which growths of cells, also called cancers, form in the body and kill normal body cells. The disease often causes death - มะเร็ง

chronic: (of a disease or pain) serious and lasting for a long time - เป็นประจำ

clarify: to make clear - ทำให้ชัดแจ้ง

clean-up: a group project of cleaning something -

commonly: ordinarily, generally - อย่างธรรมดา

complain: to say that you are annoyed, unhappy or not satisfied about somebody/something - บ่น, ร้องทุกข์

comprise: to consist or be made up of two or more things - ประกอบด้วย

condition: the physical state of a person, animal, thing or place - สภาพ

contact: a situation in which people or things touch each other - การสัมผัส

deal with: to take action to solve a problem - รับมือกับ, จัดการกับ

delayed: happening at a later time than expected - เกิดขึ้นช้ากว่าปกติ

depth: the distance down either from the top of something to the bottom, or to a distance below the top surface of something - ความลึก

detail: the small facts or features of something - รายละเอียด, ส่วนเล็กๆ น้อยๆ, ส่วนย่อย

disaster: an unexpected event, such as a very bad accident, a flood or a fire, that kills a lot of people or causes a lot of damage - ภัยพิบัติ ความหายนะ

dispersant: a chemical that is used to make some substance "disperse" or move away from an area - ตัวกระจาย

disperse: to scatter or move away over a large area, ot to make something do this - ทำให้กระจัดกระจาย

dizziness: feeling as if everything is spinning around you and that you are not able to balance - เวียนศีรษะ

ecological: of the system of relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area - เกี่ยวกับความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างสิ่งมีชีวิตในระบบนิเวศน์

ecological system: the system of relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area - ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างสิ่งมีชีวิตในระบบนิเวศน์

effect: a change that somebody/something causes in somebody/something else; a result - ผลกระทบ

environment: the place in which people or animals live including all the physical conditions that affect them - สภาพแวดล้อม, สิ่งแวดล้อม

environmental: involving the place in which people live and work, including all the physical conditions that affect them - เกี่ยวกับสภาพแวดล้อม, สิ่งแวดล้อม

expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ

food chain: in nature the process of larger animals eating smaller animals which are then eaten by larger animals which are eaten and so on - โซ่อาหาร (นิเวศวิทยา)

grant permission: to officially allow someone to do something - อนุญาต,อนุมัต, ยินยอม

harm: damage - ความเสียหาย

hazard: something that is dangerous and likely to cause damage - สิ่งที่เป็นอันตราย

hazardous: dangerous, especially to people’s health or safety - ที่เป็นอันตราย

impact: an effect or influence - ผลกระทบ

ineffective: not working correctly or not doing what you want it to do - ซึ่งใช้การไม่ได้, ซึ่งไม่ได้ผล

ingredient: one of the substances that are combined to make something - ส่วนผสม

kidney: one of the two organs in your body that clean your blood and remove waste - ไต

last resort: something done or used when everything else has failed - ที่พึ่งหรือทางออกสุดท้าย

left in the hands of: when some task or job is given to someone to do; made their responsibility -

locals: people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน

marine: relating to the sea and creatures that live in it - เกี่ยวกับทะเล

massive: very large in size, amount or number - ใหญ่โต

material: a substance that things can be made from - วัตถุ

measure: an action taken to solve a particular problem - มาตรการ

mutation: a change in the genes of a plant or animal that causes it to become different from others of its type - การกลายพันธุ์

negative: bad - ที่เป็นด้านลบ

nervous system: the system of all the nerves in the body - ระบบประสาท

occur: to happen - เกิดขึ้น

officials: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

oil slick: large amounts of oil floating on the water, what happens after an oil spill, one form of man-made disaster - คราบน้ำมันที่ลอยบนผิวน้ำ

oil spill: "the release of a oil ( or any liquid petroleum hydrocarbon) into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is usually applied to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters, but spills may also occur on land. Oil spills may be due to releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products (such as gasoline, diesel) and their by-products, heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil. Spilt oil penetrates into the structure of the plumage of birds and the fur of mammals, reducing its insulating ability, and making them more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and much less buoyant in the water. Cleanup and recovery from an oil spill is difficult and depends upon many factors, including the type of oil spilled, the temperature of the water (affecting evaporation and biodegradation), and the types of shorelines and beaches involved. Spills may take weeks, months or even years to clean up" (Source: Wikipedia) - น้ำมันรั่ว

operation: a business activity - การดำเนินการทางธุรกิจ

option: choice - ทางเลือก

organisms: a living thing such as a person, animal, or plant, especially an extremely small living thing - สิ่งมีชีวิต

participant: someone who takes part in something - ผู้เข้าร่วม

petrochemical: any chemical substance obtained from petroleum oil or natural gas - สารที่ได้จากน้ำมันปิโตรเคมี

pressure: force or make someone do something that you want them to do -

primarily: mainly - ส่วนใหญ่, อย่างสำคัญ, แรกเริ่ม, ส่วนมาก

professor: a university teacher of the highest rank - ศาสตราจารย์

prompted: caused - ก่อให้เกิด

pungent: describes a very strong smell or taste, sometimes one that is unpleasantly strong - ฉุน

respiratory: involving breathing - เกี่ยวกับการหายใจ

reveal: to let something become known - เปิดเผย

risk: to cause someone or something to be in a dangerous situation - เสี่ยงอันตราย

sea bed: the bottom of the sea - ก้นทะเล

seek (past form: sought): to try to obtain or achieve something - พยายามได้มา

shore: the land along the edge of the sea or ocean, a lake or another large area of water - ชายฝั่ง

silent: very quiet; without sound - เงียบ

similar: like somebody/something but not exactly the same - คล้ายกัน

situation: all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place - สถานการณ์

stay away: do not go near to a place -

study: A setting of the mind or thoughts upon a subject; hence, application of mind to books, arts, or science, or to any subject, for the purpose of acquiring knowledge. - งานวิจัย

substance: a particular type of liquid, solid, or gas - สาร

suspect: to believe that something is true, especially something bad - สงสัย, เป็นที่สงสัยว่า

tackle: to make an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem - จัดการกับปัญหา

toxic: poisonous and harmful to people, animals or the environment - เป็นพิษ  (toxicity is the level or degree to which something is poisonous)

worldwide: throughout the world - ทั่วโลก

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