Beginning with the use of industrial-strength detergents, dispersing agents have been employed in spill response for decades. The Corexit series of agents in common use today generally consist of non-ionic and/or anionic surfactants in a solvent base designed to enhance miscibility under varying temperature and salinity conditions; cationic surfactants tend to be too toxic for use. While dispersants generally serve to decrease the interfacial surface tension of oil, thus facilitating its weathering under low-energy conditions, their surface-active nature also causes their interaction with cell surfaces – those of single-celled organisms as well as the gills of vertebrates and invertebrates.


Coastal Response Research Center

Publication Date



Coastal Response Research Center (CRRC)

Journal Title

Dispersant Initiative and Workshop “The Future of Dispersant Use in Spill Response”

Document Type

White Paper