What Is the Impossible Burger, and Is It Healthy?
By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based alternative to traditional meat-based burgers. It's said to mimic the flavor, aroma, and texture of beef.
Some claim that the Impossible Burger is more nutritious and environmentally friendly than beef-based burgers. Others argue that certain ingredients in the Impossible Burger may not be optimal for your health.
This article explains what the Impossible Burger is, what it's made of, and whether it's nutritionally superior to beef-based burgers.
What is the Impossible Burger?
The Impossible Burger was created by Impossible Foods, a company founded by Patrick O. Brown in 2011.
Brown is a scientist and professor emeritus at Stanford University in California. He holds a medical degree and a Ph.D. and has worked as a research scientist for many years.
Through conferences, Brown tried raising awareness about how using animals for food harms the environment. However, this had little impact, so he created a business that produced plant-based alternatives to popular animal products.
Its signature product — the Impossible Burger — aims to perfectly mimic the taste of beef.
Impossible Burger Ingredients
Using carefully selected ingredients, Impossible Foods created a plant-based burger that some say perfectly resembles the taste, aroma, and texture of beef.
The original Impossible Burger contains the following ingredients:
Water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2% or less of leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, konjac gum, xanthan gum, soy protein isolate, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.
In 2019, the company introduced a new recipe featuring the following changes:
- uses soy protein instead of wheat protein, making it gluten-free
- contains a plant-based culinary binder called methylcellulose to improve texture
- replaced a portion of the coconut oil with sunflower oil to reduce saturated fat content
Heme, or soy leghemoglobin, is the ingredient said to set the Impossible Burger apart from other plant-based burgers. It adds to the flavor and color of the burger and makes it "bleed" like a beef burger does when cut.
It's also perhaps the most controversial ingredient in the Impossible Burger.
Unlike the heme found in beef, the heme in the Impossible Burger is genetically engineered by adding soy protein to genetically engineered yeast (1).
Though Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some raise concern about its potential health effects (2).
Currently, the Impossible Burger is only available at certain restaurants and fast food establishments in the United States, Hong Kong, and Macau. The company also plans to sell the Impossible Burger in U.S. grocery stores from 2019.
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger option said to replicate the flavor, texture, and aroma of beef.
Impossible Burger Nutrition
There are nutritional differences between the Impossible Burger and beef-based burgers.
Impossible Burgers are significantly lower in protein than beef-based burgers, yet they contain more fiber. Impossible Burgers are also higher in fat and contain carbohydrates, while beef burgers do not contain any carbs.
Furthermore, the Impossible Burger beats beef in many vitamin and mineral categories like folate, B12, thiamine, and iron.
However, it's important to note that these nutrients are added to the product, unlike the nutrients found in beef.
Impossible Burgers also contain a high amount of added salt, packing in 16% of the daily value for sodium in one 4-ounce (113-gram) serving.
The Impossible Burger is higher in certain vitamins and minerals than beef burgers, as they are added during processing. Impossible Burgers are also higher in salt and carbohydrates.
Impossible Burger Benefits
Impossible Burgers offer several health benefits.
High in Important Nutrients
The Impossible Burger contains an impressive amount of nutrients, as vitamins and minerals like iron, thiamine, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 are added during processing.
Some of these nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, are especially important for those following plant-based diets, including vegans and vegetarians.
What really sets the Impossible Burger apart from other vegan and vegetarian foods enriched with iron is that it provides heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by your body than the non-heme iron you get from plant foods.
Moreover, soy leghemoglobin has been shown to have an equivalent bioavailability to the iron found in meat, making it a potentially important source of highly absorbable iron for those who don't consume animal products (8).
The iron in the Impossible Burger has been approved by the FDA for use in food, although it's long-term safety is still unknown.
Suitable for Plant-Based Diets
The Impossible Burger is a good choice if you enjoy the taste of beef burgers but want to limit your intake of animal products.
Given that Impossible Burgers are offered at certain restaurants and fast food establishments, it's a tasty and easy, on-the-go meal choice for those following plant-based diets.
May Be a More Environmentally-Friendly Choice
The Impossible Burger website claims that producing this plant-based burger uses roughly 75% less water, generates 87% fewer greenhouse gasses, and requires 95% less land than producing conventional ground beef from cows (9).
Indeed, research shows that cattle farming is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions in the livestock industry (10).
Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming contribute to global warming. This leads many climate experts to recommend that people eat a more plant-based diet in order to mitigate pressure on the environment (11, 12).
The Impossible Burger is an environmentally-friendly food packed with nutrients that vegan and vegetarian diets often lack, such as iron and vitamin B12.
Impossible Burger Precautions
Although the Impossible Burger offers some benefits, there are some downsides to consider as well.
Concerns Over Plant-Based Heme
Although soy leghemoglobin — the heme used in Impossible Burgers — was deemed GRAS by the FDA, its long-term safety is still unknown.
Current studies on soy leghemoglobin have only been conducted in animals and over short periods.
For example, a 28-day study in rats found that those fed the equivalent of 750 mg/kg per day of soy leghemoglobin, which is over 100 times greater than the 90th percentile estimated daily intake in humans, had no adverse effects (13).
However, it's currently unknown whether it's safe for humans to eat this man-made compound over longer periods.
Contains Potentially Allergenic Ingredients
The original Impossible Burger recipe contains wheat and soy, both of which are common food allergens.
In fact, 1% of the world's population has celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to gluten-containing grains.
What's more, it's thought that 0.5–13% of the general population has non-celiac gluten sensitivity — an intolerance to gluten that results in unpleasant symptoms like headache and intestinal issues (14).
While the new Impossible Burger recipe has swapped gluten-containing wheat protein for soy protein, the burger still contains ingredients that some people can't tolerate.
Concerns Over GMOs
Impossible Foods does not hide the fact that the Impossible Burger contains genetically modified (GMO) ingredients like soy leghemoglobin and soy protein.
Most scientists agree that GMO foods are safe. However, some are concerned about the use of GMO crops that are resistant to commonly used herbicides like glyphosate and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) (16).
Glyphosate has been linked to potentially harmful effects on humans, plants, and animals, leading many experts to demand further research on the possible hazards of this herbicide to both humans and the environment (17, 18, 19).
Additionally, some studies have linked exposure to 2,4-D with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer (22).
There are several downsides to the Impossible Burger, including its content of potentially allergenic ingredients and the use of GMO ingredients like soy leghemoglobin.
Is the Impossible Burger Healthy?
If taste and convenience are your only concerns, the Impossible Burger may be a good choice. However, if you want to eat a more nutritious plant-based burger, consider a more whole-food-based veggie burger.
There Are Healthier Plant-Based Burger Options
The Impossible Burger contains mostly soy or wheat protein, as well as added preservatives, salt, flavorings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture.
Although these ingredients are considered natural, they aren't necessary for a healthy diet, and some people prefer to avoid them.
Another downside to the Impossible Burger is that any restaurant can put their own spin on it, meaning that other ingredients — aside from those listed on the official website — may be present in the final food product.
Other veggie burgers on the market usually contain similar ingredients. However, some contain more whole-food-based ingredients like lentils, quinoa, hemp, and black beans.
Fortunately, you can make healthier and more whole-food-based veggie burgers at home. Delicious plant- and nutrient-dense burger recipes can be found online and are often based on plant proteins like beans, grains, and nuts.
Plus, many recipes pack in fresh vegetables like sweet potato, onions, cauliflower, leafy greens, and spices to further elevate the nutritional benefits of the final dish.
The heme iron in the Impossible Burger is more bioavailable than non-heme iron in plant foods.
Luckily, if you eat a plant-based diet, you can instead meet your iron needs by eating nutrient-dense whole foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Alternatively, you can take iron supplements.
Additionally, pairing plant-based iron sources with foods rich in vitamin C, as well as soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains and legumes before eating them, are simple ways to naturally enhance the absorption of non-heme iron (23, 24).
While the Impossible Burger may be a good option for vegans and vegetarians on the go, you can make healthier plant-based burgers at home.
The Bottom Line
The Impossible Burger has made headlines for its impressive similarity to beef-based burgers.
It boasts high protein, vitamin, and mineral contents, including a genetically engineered, plant-based source of heme iron known as soy leghemoglobin.
However, there are concerns about some of its ingredients. These include soy hemoglobin and potentially allergenic protein sources like gluten and soy.
Although the Impossible Burger may be a tasty and convenient option on the go, you can make more nutritious plant-based burgers from whole-food ingredients at home.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.
Soil can act as a natural "carbon sink." Climate Central, 2019
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By Shelly Miller
The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.
It’s All About Fresh, Outside Air<p>The safest indoor space is one that constantly has lots of <a href="https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/how-does-outdoor-air-enter-building" target="_blank">outside air</a> replacing the stale air inside.</p><p>In commercial buildings, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK143277/" target="_blank">outside air is usually pumped in</a> through heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. In <a href="https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/how-does-outdoor-air-enter-building" target="_blank">homes, outside air gets in</a> through open windows and doors, in addition to seeping in through various nooks and crannies.</p><p>Simply put, the more fresh, outside air inside a building, the better. Bringing in this air dilutes any contaminant in a building, whether a virus or a something else, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0668.2010.00703.x" target="_blank">reduces the exposure of anyone inside</a>. Environmental engineers like me quantify how much outside air is getting into a building using a measure called the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2013.30" target="_blank">air exchange rate</a>. This number quantifies the number of times the air inside a building gets replaced with air from outside in an hour.</p><p>While the exact rate depends on the number of people and size of the room, most experts consider roughly <a href="https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0668.2002.01145.x" target="_blank">six air changes an hour</a> to be good for a 10-foot-by-10-foot room with three to four people in it. In a pandemic this should be higher, with one study from 2016 suggesting that an exchange rate of nine times per hour <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1420326X16631596" target="_blank">reduced the spread of SARS, MERS and H1N1</a> in a Hong Kong hospital.</p><p>Many buildings in the U.S., <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12403" target="_blank">especially schools</a>, do not meet recommended ventilation rates. Thankfully, it can be pretty easy to get more outside air into a building. Keeping <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0960-1481(99)00012-9" target="_blank">windows and doors open</a> is a good start. Putting a box fan in a window blowing out can greatly increase air exchange too. In buildings that don't have operable windows, you can change the mechanical ventilation system to increase how much air it is pumping. But in any room, the more people inside, the faster the air should be replaced.</p>
Using CO2 to Measure Air Circulation<p>So how do you know if the room you're in has enough air exchange? It's actually a pretty hard number to calculate. But there's an easy-to-measure proxy that can help. Every time you exhale, you <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12383" target="_blank">release CO2</a> into the air. Since the coronavirus is most often spread by breathing, coughing or talking, you can use <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/dd7e/b2870c38f70e5285e5118ed6f158c091f7cf.pdf" target="_blank">CO2 levels</a> to see if the room is filling up with potentially infectious exhalations. The CO2 level lets you estimate if enough fresh outside air is getting in.</p><p>Outdoors, CO2 levels are just above 400 parts per million (ppm). A well ventilated room will have around <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0668.1999.00003.x" target="_blank">800 ppm of CO2</a>. Any higher than that and it is a sign the room might need more ventilation.</p><p>Last year, researchers in Taiwan reported on the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12639" target="_blank">effect of ventilation on a tuberculosis outbreak</a> at Taipei University. Many of the rooms in the school were underventilated and had CO2 levels above 3,000 ppm. When engineers improved air circulation and got CO2 levels under 600 ppm, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12639" target="_blank">the outbreak completely stopped</a>. According to the research, the increase in ventilation was responsible for 97% of the decrease in transmission.</p><p>Since the coronavirus is spread through the air, higher CO2 levels in a room likely mean there is a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12639" target="_blank">higher chance of transmission</a> if an infected person is inside. Based on the study above, I recommend trying to keep the CO2 levels below 600 ppm. You can buy <a href="https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-7-3325-2014" target="_blank">good CO2 meters</a> for around $100 online; just make sure that they are accurate to within 50 ppm.</p>
Air Cleaners<p>If you are in a room that can't get enough outside air for dilution, consider an air cleaner, also commonly called air purifiers. These machines remove particles from the air, usually using <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cap.2005.07.013" target="_blank">a filter</a> made of tightly woven fibers. They can <a href="https://shellym80304.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/miller-leiden-et-al-1996.pdf" target="_blank">capture particles containing bacteria and viruses</a> and can help reduce disease transmission.</p><p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that <a href="https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/air-cleaners-hvac-filters-and-coronavirus-covid-19" target="_blank">air cleaners can do this for the coronavirus</a>, but not all air cleaners are equal. Before you go out and buy one, there are few things to keep in mind.</p><p>The first thing to consider is <a href="https://shellym80304.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/air-cleaner-report.pdf" target="_blank">how effective an air cleaner's filter is</a>. Your best option is a cleaner that uses a high-efficiency particulate air (<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0021-8502(05)80214-9" target="_blank">HEPA</a>) filter, as these remove more than <a href="https://doi.org/10.1063/1.2771421" target="_blank">99.97% of all particle sizes</a>.</p><p>The second thing to consider is how powerful the cleaner is. The bigger the room – or the more people in it – the more air needs to be cleaned. I worked with some colleagues at Harvard to put together a tool to help teachers and schools determine <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NEhk1IEdbEi_b3wa6gI_zNs8uBJjlSS-86d4b7bW098/edit#gid=1275403500" target="_blank">how powerful of an air cleaner you need for different classroom sizes</a>.</p><p>The last thing to consider is the validity of the claims made by the company producing the air cleaner.</p><p>The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers certifies air cleaners, so the AHAM Verifide seal is a good place to start. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board has a <a href="https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/air-cleaners-ozone-products/california-certified-air-cleaning-devices" target="_blank">list of air cleaners</a> that are certified as safe and effective, though not all of them use HEPA filters.</p>
Keep Air Fresh or Get Outside<p>Both the <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/transmission-of-sars-cov-2-implications-for-infection-prevention-precautions" target="_blank">World Health Organization</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html" target="_blank">U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> say that poor ventilation increases the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.</p><p>If you are in control of your indoor environment, make sure you are getting enough fresh air from outside circulating into the building. A CO2 monitor can help give you a clue if there is enough ventilation, and if CO2 levels start going up, open some windows and <a href="https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/07/17/outdoor-gathering" target="_blank">take a break outside</a>. If you can't get enough fresh air into a room, an air cleaner might be a good idea. If you do get an air cleaner, be aware that they don't remove CO2, so even though the air might be safer, CO2 levels could still be high in the room.</p><p>If you walk into a building and it feels hot, stuffy and crowded, chances are that there is not enough ventilation. Turn around and leave.</p><p>By paying attention to air circulation and filtration, improving them where you can and staying away from places where you can't, you can add another powerful tool to your anti-coronavirus toolkit.</p>
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The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.
On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.
France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.
The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.
"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."
Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.
By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.
The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.
"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.
While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.
"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.
Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.
Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.
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Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.
Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons<p>"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."</p><p>Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.</p><p>"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.</p>
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton<p>While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.</p><p>At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.</p><p>"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.</p>
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton<p>This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.</p><p>"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."</p>
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By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun
After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.
<div id="bb0a7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e5aefc0fff61ab1aea2f4b03c5399864"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291765757013983238" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The #oilspill is devastating but I want to honour the community mobilisation at the Mahebourg waterfront today (to… https://t.co/UWFkZFdjdi</div> — Fabiola Monty (@Fabiola Monty)<a href="https://twitter.com/LFabiolaMonty/statuses/1291765757013983238">1596815930.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"Booms are made of nylon mesh filled with #sugarcane straws all hand-stitched by Mauritian volunteers, empty plastic bottles used as buoys," described Mauritian journalist Zeenat Hansrod in a tweet. </p>
How to Tackle Oil Spills<p>The method for tackling oil spills depends on several factors, including the type and amount of oil in question, location and weather conditions.</p><p>"Once the oil comes to shore, the more intensive the cleaning technique. You can risk causing further damage," said Nicky Cariglia, an independent consultant at Marittima, who specializes in marine pollution. </p><p>"If you wanted to remove all traces of oil, the techniques available become increasingly aggressive the less oil that remains. In mangroves, you would have the added risk of causing damage by trampling," Cariglia told DW. Highly sensitive mangrove ecosystems line the Mauritius east coast that is threatened by the current spill.</p><p>Because oil normally has a lower density than water, it floats on the surface of the ocean. This means that for clean-up action to be most effective, it should happen very quickly after a spill, before the oil disperses. </p>
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