The use of dispersants to combat oil spills in Germany at sea

Mineral oil spills at sea have significant effects on coastal areas, marine life and human health. In case of an oil spill at sea, spill managers have to decide on the most effective spill response to minimize the damage to the environment and human health. Besides the me-chanical containment and recovery, dispersants could be used for supporting the breakup of oil slicks into small droplets, which offer the chance for biodegradation of oil in the sea. In this way, oiling of coastal areas and coating of species like birds could be reduced. However, as the bioavailability of oil components is enhanced, acute toxic effects on water and sediment living organisms are increased. Currently, there are conflicting scientific views concerning the potential risks for human health and the environment generated by the use of dispersants during maritime oil spills. Until today, no comprehensive assessment of risks and chances of the use of chemical dispersants has been developed for marine German waters, which could provide guidance for the national spill manager, the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies. On November 12th and 13th 2015 the workshop „The use of dispersants to combat oil spills in Germany at sea” was held in Berlin. Experts from authorities, research institutions and international organizations summarized and discussed the current scientific knowledge on risks and benefits. It was organized by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in cooperation with the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (HK), the Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG), the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH), and the Inde-pendent Group of Environmental Experts “Consequences of Pollution Accidents” at the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (UEG). This report is intended to document the status of knowledge on the potential effects and the trade-off of risks and benefits of dispersant use as oil spill response with a special focus on the situation in Germany. It provides outlines of presentations held at the two day event highlighting the main results and conclusions


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