The long term effects of oil spills

April 26, 2012 § Leave a comment


Mass death of crabs exposed to oil and dispersants. (Credit: Erika Blumenfeld / Al Jazeera)

Two years ago BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 and injuring 17 workers. 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico before the leak could be sealed, making it the worst accidental oil spill in history.

Oil spills cause immediate and devastating damage to habitats and ecosystems; we’re used to seeing oil slicked beaches on our TV’s. Two years after the spill we may think that things are back to normal but the chemical dispersants used to sink the oil are also highly toxic.

Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, said she is finding crabs:

“with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they’ve been dead for a week”.

There are reports of mutations in other marine life including, missing eyes and eye sockets, lesions and growths, sores and missing body parts.


Shrimp showing lesions which scientists say is as a result of BP oil spill. (Credit: Keath Ladner / Al Jazeera)

Scientists believe this is a result of the chemical dispersants which are carcinogenic and teratogenic (causing deformaties in an embryo or fetus).

When we’re queuing up for petrol costing around £1.50 per litre, it seems obvious that we can’t sustain such energy intensive lifestyles indefinitely via fossil fuels.  We enjoy a comfortable standard of living, and I like to think that in the future this will be possible without devastating the environment.

Shrimp processors are currently arguing that BP’s proposed settlement of $7.8billion favours certain sections of industry at their expense.

You can watch an interesting video and find out more, here

By Emma Law

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