Gulf. Seawater. Explodes.

A friend posted a news clip on Facebook, to wit:

Recently, a News 5 investigation collected samples from multiple beaches in and around the Gulf region. Samples were taken in areas where kids were playing and swimming. The results were absolutely terrifying.

Good thing she didn’t test for arsenic. Also a good thing she didn’t read any actual scientific papers, I replied.

It sure would be refreshing to find a local news anchor who had even the remotest clue about science.

Another Facebook buddy commented on the link.

“@Dick: Did you actually watch the clip? If you had, you would know that the comment about the sample came from an analytical chemist (a “he”), and you’d also know that the sample was being tested for oil concentration, and underwent a surprisingly violent reaction that destroyed its Erlenmeyer flask because it contained an unknown component (dispersant? methane? they didn’t know).”

Pfui. He was trolling, right? Surely he must have been trolling. If he has heard the word Erlenmeyer flask somewhere, then he has enough technical knowledge to understand that (a) the reporter had no idea what she was talking about, (b) the report was full of scare stuff and devoid of much science stuff, and © Erlenmeyer flasks have flat bottoms. Jessica Taloney (the “she” I referenced) was the reporter. I don’t know if she has a flat bottom.

Robert Naman, the chemist “she” interviewed, told us that sea water typically has about 5 ppm of oil. The reporter scared us by saying “from 16 ppm to 221 ppm, our results are concerning.” Why? She didn’t tell us if 221 gallons of oil in a million gallons of sea water is fatal to humans or if it is only a problem when she needs ratings. She didn’t tell us if the oil in the marina (the highest concentration she measured) was from Deepwater Horizon or from a leak on the boat she used to dip the water. Marinas usually have higher concentration of oil in the water than beaches. SHE DIDN’T TELL US BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T KNOW. And neither did my Facebook buddy.

But the comment about the sample came from an analytical chemist.

Woo hoo. I Googled. Didn’t find anything about Robert Naman in the ACS rolls. The exploded flask did “contain an unknown component” so they speculated on how bad it was but SHE DIDN’T TELL US WHAT BLEW UP BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T KNOW. And neither did my Facebook buddy.

“News 5 will test that water for chemicals, specifically chemicals linked to the dispersant being used in the Gulf, Corexit,” Ms. Taloney reported alarmingly.

Well, isn’t that special. Mr. Naman doesn’t know what caused the explosion but Ms. Taloney will make sure they hang it on a chemical she knows nothing about.

I’m not a chemist nor do I play one on TV. I have no idea, based on the “WKRG News” report, whether the amount of oil they found is a reasonable average for the areas they sampled, is toxic in the concentrations they did find, or even if it came from Deepwater Horizon. I have no idea because the reporter did such a lousy job. SHE DIDN’T TELL US BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T KNOW. And neither did my Facebook buddy.

Unfortunately, my Facebook buddy (and WKRG “News”) want to make it into something that keeps us scared.

Gulf. Seawater. Explodes. And that, dear reader, is how the media deceives us.