Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Deepwater Horizon Also Spilled 'Invisible Oil,' Harming Far More Marine Life Than Previously Known

Energy
A controlled burn in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast on June 9, 2010, less than two months after the catastrophic BP oil spill. Deepwater Horizon Response / Flickr

By Julia Conley

Ten years after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster sent hundreds of millions of gallons of oil across the Gulf of Mexico, researchers say the reach of the damage was far more significant than previously thought.


In a study published Wednesday in Science, Claire Paris-Limouzy and Igal Berenshtein of the University of Miami revealed that a significant amount of oil was never picked up in satellite images or captured by barriers that were meant to stop the spread.

"Our results change established perceptions about the consequences of oil spills by showing that toxic and invisible oil can extend beyond the satellite footprint at potentially lethal and sub-lethal concentrations to a wide range of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico," said Paris-Limouzy.

The "invisible oil" spread across an area roughly 30% larger than the 92,500 square miles experts previously believed it had reached, the study says.


"I think it kind of changes the way you think about oil spills," Berenshtein told The Washington Post. "People have to change the way they see this so that they know there's this invisible and toxic component of oil that changes marine life."

The ocean protection group Blue Frontier Campaign expressed "disgust" at the revelation — but not surprise.

Since the 2010 blowout and platform explosion, which killed 11 people, scientists have estimated that the disaster spewed 210 million gallons of oil over the course of five months, with oil reaching Florida and Texas.

Much of the spilled oil that Berenshtein and Paris-Limouzy detected in their research, using a model that allowed them to trace oil in the Gulf from its source, spread below the water's surface and became toxic enough over time to destroy 50% of the marine life it came across.

"When you have oil combined with ultraviolent sunlight it becomes two times more toxic than oil alone," Paris-Limouzy told the Post. "Oil becomes toxic at very low concentrations."

Experts vastly underestimated the extent to which marine life was harmed, the researchers said.

The research was released as the Trump administration prepares to open up the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans to oil and gas leases and to expand leasing in the Gulf.

"Time to get off fossil fuel and on to renewables," wrote the Blue Frontier Campaign.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy industry on the lower Mississippi helps to create dead zones. AJ Wallace on Unsplash.

Cutting out coal-burning and other sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy industry, electricity production and traffic will reduce the size of the world's dead zones along coasts where all fish life is vanishing because of a lack of oxygen.

Read More Show Less

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates the sky on August 21, 2019 in Norco, Louisiana. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.

Methane levels in the atmosphere experienced a dramatic rise in 2019, preliminary data released Sunday shows.

Read More Show Less
A retired West Virginia miner suffering from black lung visits a doctor for tests. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

In some states like West Virginia, coal mines have been classified as essential services and are staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the close quarters miners work in and the known risks to respiratory health put miners in harm's way during the spread of the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Solar panel installations and a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province on April 23, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP via Getty Images

Renewable energy made up almost three quarters of all new energy capacity added in 2019, data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.

Read More Show Less