5/20/10 The Environmental Protection Agency said it had told the oil company to immediately select a less toxic dispersant than the one it is now using to break up crude oil gushing from a ruined well in the Gulf of Mexico. Once the agency has signed off on a different product, it said, the company would then have 72 hours to start using it.

BP has sprayed nearly 700,000 gallons of Corexit dispersants on the surface of the gulf and directly onto the leaking well head a mile underwater. It is by far the largest use of chemicals to break up an oil spill in United States waters to date.

Scientists and politicians have questioned why the E.P.A. is allowing use of the Corexit products when less toxic alternatives are available.

On Monday, Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, sent a letter to Ms. Jackson at the E.P.A. demanding details of the formula for Corexit products and information about any testing that had been carried out on the chemicals.

In a statement on Thursday, the E.P.A. said, “Because of its use in unprecedented volumes and because much is unknown about the underwater use of dispersants, E.P.A. wants to ensure BP is using the least toxic product authorized for use.”

BP said it was reviewing its options and did not detail which or how many dispersants it might propose for use.

But U.S. Polychemical of Spring Valley, N.Y., which makes a dispersant called Dispersit SPC 1000, said Thursday morning that it had received an order from BP and would increase its production to 20,000 gallons a day in the next few days, and eventually to as much as 60,000 gallons a day.

In a letter to BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, the agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also warned the company that it had “fallen short” in keeping the public informed. It demanded that BP release and post all data related to the month-old spill and monitoring efforts on a public Web site.

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