Chemists from Oregon State University developed a method that detects and measures the chemical composition of the four Corexit surfactants in seawater.

This research also helped to identify best practices that addresses the complexities of sample collection, handling, and storage for improved toxicity testing and biodegradation experiments. They published their findings in the 2014 Deep-Sea Research II: Topical Studies in Oceanography: Trace analysis of surfactants in Corexit oil dispersant formulations and seawater.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, responders applied an unprecedented amount of dispersant at oil coming from the wellhead and on surface slicks. To assist environmental impact assessments, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) obtained the ingredients of four Corexit surfactants commonly known as DOSS, Span 80, Tween 80, and Tween 85. DOSS was the only surfactant that received EPA-determined aquatic life benchmarks for chronic exposure and reporting limits; therefore, it has been the main focus of recent studies to indicate the presence of Corexit. This study’s goals were to develop a sensitive and selective analytical method for quantifying the four surfactant classes in seawater and then use this method to determine the distribution and concentrations of surfactants in the Gulf.  Read more…

Update: We’ve also just been informed that the PhD student who originally worked on this research, Dr. Benjamin Place (Class of 2013) recently got hired at NIST.  Congratulations, Ben!!