Oil from BP spill has officially entered the food chain

Oil from BP spill has officially entered the food chain

Researchers in Louisiana have found carbon from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the feathers and digestive tracts of seaside sparrows, proving for the first time that oil from the disastrous 2010 spill has entered the food chain.

The study, published today in Environmental Research Letters, was conducted by scientists from Louisiana State University and Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. They found oil carbon signatures consistent with the Deepwater Horizon event in each of 10 birds tested.

These marsh-dwelling sparrows inhabit an area known to have been contaminated by the spill. Sediments from the site also tested positive for oil with the same fingerprints as that found in the tested birds.

The Deepwater Horizon accident followed the blowout of the wellhead at the Macondo oil rig and lasted for 87 days. Eleven workers died and 4.9 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. It became the largest oil spill in U.S. history and was called the “worst environmental disaster the U.S. has faced” by White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner.

Oil sheens continued to be seen as much as three years after the event. The source of many were never discovered, but the containment dome failed and had to be plugged in 2012.

The immediate effects of such major spills are readily apparent. Oiled birds, dead fish and beaches covered in crude-oil sludge are often the first, horrific results. Disasters like Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon and the Santa Barbara oil spill damage critical wildlife habitat and destroy fisheries.

Longer-term, the pernicious oil enters the food chain.

The first signs of Deepwater Horizon oil were found in blue crab larvae in 2010. Oil likely entered the food chain through zooplankton. A 2012 study found traces of oil in zooplankton impacted by the BP oil spill.

Source: Ecowatch

Date: December 2016

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