Study Shows Gulf Oil Spill Linked to Dolphin Disease and Death
In the year following the massive BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, dolphins in the area developed severe lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other deadly health problems that are likely linked to the toxic oil contamination, according to a report published Wednesday.
“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals — and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities,” lead scientist Dr. Lori Schwacke said in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration press release.
After examining dolphins in the Gulf following the disaster, scientists from NOAA found prevalent symptoms indicative of “petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity.”
According to the report, which was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, half of the dolphins examined were given “guarded or worse” prognoses and at least 17% will die from their exposure.
“While we have seen an unusual number of dolphin deaths during and after the spill, this report verifies that the oil took a larger toll on dolphins,” Jacqueline Savitz, a vice president of the international ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana, told the Huffington Post. “Oil production in the Gulf has had a much larger toll on the ecosystem than many people realize.”
The samples were taken from Barataria Bay, the most heavily affected area in the Gulf after the spill, and were compared to samples taken from Sarasota Bay, Florida, which was not directly affected. The scientists stopped short of saying BP’s oil was without a doubt the cause of the dolphin’s plight, but they did conclude that the Louisiana dolphins were five times more likely to develop moderate to severe lung disease than the Florida dolphins.
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