The two types of dispersants BP is spraying in the Gulf are banned for use  on oil spills in the U.K. As EPA-approved products , BP has been using them in greater quantities than dispersants have ever been used  in the history of US oil spills.
BP is using two products from a line of dispersants called Corexit , which EPA data  appears to show is more toxic and less effective  on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants, according to Greenwire.
We learned about the U.K. ban from a mention on the New York Times’ website. (The reference was cut from later versions of the article, so we can’t link to the Times, but we found the piece  elsewhere.) The Times flagged a letter  Rep. Edward Markey, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, sent to the EPA yesterday. The letter pointed out that both the Corexit products currently being used in the Gulf were removed from a list of approved treatments for oil spills in the UK more than a decade ago. (Here’s the letter .)
As we’ve reported, Corexit was also used after Exxon Valdez  and was “later linked with health impacts in people including respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.” One of the two Corexit products also contains a compound associated with “headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems at high doses .”
Given that the dispersants are EPA-approved, the choice on which ones to use was left to BP, which had stockpiled large amounts of Corexit and is now ordering more.