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Posted: July 27, 2010 12:40 PM

The Oil Spill's Toxic Trade-off

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Break down the oil slick, keep it off the shores: that's grounds for pumping toxic dispersant into the Gulf, say clean-up overseers. Susan Shaw shows evidence it's sparing some beaches only at devastating cost to the health of the deep sea.

For two decades, Susan Shaw has investigated the effects of environmental chemicals in marine animals. She is credited as the first scientist to show that flame-retardant chemicals in consumer products have contaminated marine mammals and commercially important fish stocks in the northwest Atlantic Ocean.

An outspoken and influential voice on ocean pollution, Shaw dove in the Gulf oil slick in May and observed first-hand how oil and dispersants are impacting life in the water column. The experience prompted her to call for a collaborative, Gulf-wide effort to track effects as the toxins ripple through the food web. She was instrumental in creating the Consensus Statement opposing further use of dispersants in the Gulf.

Shaw serves on the International Panel on Chemical Pollution, a select group of scientists urging policymakers to improve management of toxic chemicals. She travels throughout the US, Europe and Asia as a speaker on the ocean crisis and chemical pollution.