Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Detrimental Effects of Oil Spills on Our Environment

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Oil spill effects are so alarming that an oil spill is considered to be a serious environmental catastrophe. Annually, millions of gallons of oil are discharged into the oceans due to careless handling, natural calamities, off shore oil drilling, and terrorist activities. In addition to having has disastrous effects on the environment, an oil spill is often lethal to wildlife. Oil is classified into five groups, namely very light, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy oil. Short-term oil spill effects include tarred coastlines and sea shores, dead or injured flora and fauna, and contaminated water. With the passage of time, oil spills that are not cleaned can ultimately destroy the surrounding ecosystem. 

Effects of Oil Spills on Water: In water, oil spreads into a thin layer on the water surface. This thin layer or film of oil is called a sheen. When dispersed in water, oil undergoes a process called withering. With the exposure to air, sunlight, wave, and tidal action, the toxic effects of the dispersed oil gradually reduces. 

Oil Spill Effects on Marine Animals and Plants

Aquatic wildlife and their habitats are affected by oil spills by means of physical contact, ingestion, absorption, and inhalation. The oil spill causes damage to the entire aquatic food chain. Suspended oil on the water contaminates plankton, algae, larvae, and fish eggs, which are consumed by small fish species. This contamination is then passed on to larger fish, bears, aquatic birds, and even humans. The growth and germination of marine plants are affected by oil spills as well. When exposed to oil spills, some species of marine algae and seaweed may even perish. 

Oil spills can cause marine invertebrates to choke. They can also alter their metabolic activity and shell development. These invertebrates may accumulate high levels of toxins in their bodies, which get passed on to their predators when they are eaten. Fish tend to ingest large amounts of oil through their gills, which seriously affects the health of their eggs and larva. In adult fish, an oil spill may cause damage like reduced growth, improper heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproductive mutilation. Oil spills can even destroy the insulation capacity of a marine bird’s feathers or a mammal’s fur, which leads to death by hypothermia. When oil is ingested by these species, it leads to damage of the lungs, liver, and kidneys, followed by death. 

Effects of Oil Spills on Land: 

Oil spills on farms or grassy land will lead to the choking of plant life. Plant life is so detrimentally affected because the soil will lose its ability to absorb water. Light oil seeps into top soil quickly, rapidly percolates, and then contaminates groundwater. On the other hand, heavier oil with a high viscosity rate penetrates slowly. Terrestrial oil spills seriously affects the fertility of soil, often making it unfit for vegetation. 

Oil spill cleanup methods:

Several oil spill cleanup methods are used both on land and water. Some of the most common oil spill management techniques are booms, skimmers, sorbents, chemical dispersants, biological agents, and in-situ burning. Eco-friendly oil spill management requires the use of bioremediation. Bioremediation is a technique that uses living organisms like bacteria and fungi to degrade oil contaminated soil or water. 

Oil Gone Easy is a company that is committed to developing eco-friendly products, such as Home & Driveway S-200, an oil stain remover, and Marine S-200, a bilge cleaner. These green cleaning products remove oil spills without causing any harm to the environment through bioremediation.

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