I don’t know why, but the turtles get to me

A 22 mile long 6 mile wide plume has a bullseye pointed straight at the west coast of Florida and the Keys, along with the sealife there

The cloud was nearing a large underwater canyon whose currents fuel the foodchain in Gulf waters off Florida and could potentially wash the tiny plants and animals that feed larger organisms in a stew of toxic chemicals, another researcher said Friday.

Oh, wait. There’s more

The researchers say they are worried these undersea plumes may be the result of the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil a mile undersea at the site of the leak.

Hollander said the oil they detected has dissolved into the water, and is no longer visible, leading to fears from researchers that the toxicity from the oil and dispersants could pose a big danger to fish larvae and creatures that filter the waters for food.

and

"There are two elements to it," Hollander said. "The plume reaching waters on the continental shelf could have a toxic effect on fish larvae, and we also may see a long term response as it cascades up the food web."

So, what makes crude oil so toxic?

Deborah Blum at scienceblogs tells us about the toxic stew, otherwise known as BTEX

But – and this is not news – oil is also just plain poisonous without any help from dispersants at all. This is why you don’t find people generally lapping up gasoline down at the corner station or setting up petroleum bars where people can grab a quick shot of Sweet Louisiana Crude. So what’s the chemical recipe that makes them so hazardous?

[...]

Petroleum experts actually have an acronym for four famously troublesome compounds in crude oil: BTEX. This stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes.

Benzene is probably the best known of these compounds, because it’s been flagged as a human carcinogen for a couple decades. I’ve always rather admired the elegant structure of a benzene molecule, which is a beautifully arranged ring of six carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms:

But while the benzene ring has an elegant structure, the compound itself is considered so dangerous that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set the maximum permissible level in drinking water at .005 mg/l. The problem with benzene is that it directly damages bone marrow, making it suspect in environmentally induced leukemias. …

She then mentions toluene which is a volatile aromatic hydrocarbon. Toluene is toxic to the nervous system and doesn’t mix well with water which means that it’s hard to wash out once it enters the cells … remember this bit from above?

the toxicity from the oil and dispersants could pose a big danger to fish larvae and creatures that filter the waters for food

She also says ethylbenzene and xylene are also volatile aromatic hydrocarbons. Volatile aromatic hydrocarbons evaporate, and get in the air that – ding, ding, ding – people breathe

In the latest incident, seven workers were hospitalized Wednesday after complaining of nausea, dizziness and headaches, prompting the Coast Guard to order all 125 boats working in the Breton Sound area to return to port as a precaution. Five of the workers were released Thursday, but two remained hospitalized and an investigation was underway to try to determine the cause.

"God knows what kinds of exposures people are getting," said Edward Overton, a professor of environmental chemistry at Louisiana State University. "There are lots of things in oil that you wouldn’t want to be exposed to."

So, all that said …

How much is a turtle worth?