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6 March 2014 1:04 pm ,
Vol. 343 ,
Magdalena Koziol, a former postdoc at Yale University, was the victim of scientific sabotage. Now, she is suing the...
Antiretroviral drugs can protect people from becoming infected by HIV. But so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP...
Two studies show that eating a diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates is linked to a longer, healthier life, and...
Considered an icon of conservation science, researchers at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headquarters in Washington, D.C.,...
The new atlas, which shows the distribution of important trace metals and other substances, is the first product of...
Early in April, the first of a fleet of environmental monitoring satellites will lift off from Europe's spaceport in...
Since 2000, U.S. government health research agencies have spent almost $1 billion on an effort to churn out thousands...
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As Oil Becomes 'Mousse' Then 'Tarballs,' Chemistry Could Determine Coast's Fate
3 May 2010 6:17 pm
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is no Exxon Valdez, says marine chemist Edward Overton. Instead of a "black tide" of crude oil flushing into marshlands, Overton is looking for mostly "tarballs" to invade the Gulf Coast's beaches and marshes.
Between the leaking wellhead—which is 1500 meters down on the sea floor, 65 kilometers out in the Gulf—and the coast, the oil is transforming. It first forms a foamy "mousse" that quickly loses its more volatile, more toxic components. That looks like roof tar, says Overton, professor emeritus at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and a chemical hazard assessment contractor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It's getting less toxic, but it's staying sticky."
By the time the spill reaches the coast, it's likely to be mostly tarballs and tar mats that are more likely to kill plants and animals by sticking to them than by outright toxicity, Overton says. "Mother Nature is helping us because we're dealing with a sticky material that won't cover large areas." Still, "we've never had a spill of this magnitude on a marshland coast. It's hard to tell what the biggest impact will be."
For more on the gulf oil spill, see our full coverage.