How Oil Spills Are Negatively Impacting The Environment

The modern society highly depends on petroleum products, due to human error and equipment failure, in the production, storage, transportation and use of these products; spills have continually affected the environment. It results in long-lasting disastrous economic, environmental, and social impacts worldwide.

Oil Spills Effects on Human life

The volatile oil products are associated with adverse health effects ranging from dizziness, nausea, certain types of cancers and effects on the nervous system. Humans encounter both direct and indirect exposure are the main cause of oil spills. Petroleum products contain volatile compounds emitted as gases, which contaminate the air. If one takes in these compounds for an extended period, it will result in a severe respiratory complication. The gases can diffuse for longer distances affecting a wide range of people. Humans may also get into direct contact with the spills when they work or walk-in contaminated areas, leading to irritations, besides, the contaminants can also penetrate to the body through the skin.
Oil toxins also affect people who live far away from where the spills occurred. When bathing or swimming in contaminated water streams, the toxins can also penetrate to the body. Some oil products become bioaccumulated in living creatures and are therefore present along the food chain.

Effects on Marine life

Sea organisms like fish, planktons, and larvae are subjected to oil toxins. When oil gets spilled on the water surfaces, it spreads out to various areas as it undergoes some chemical and physical changes which break it down to become more substantial than water. Plankton is a food resource for marines like the whales when they ingest oil droplets; they assimilate the hydrocarbons directly. Consumption of these petroleum volatiles can result in mortality of the sea creatures while the surviving organism will show developmental and reproductive abnormalities.
The coral reefs which are home to shrimps, fish, and other aquatic animals accumulate high toxins from the oil spills and have resulted in the death of many nubbins. The benthic invertebrates tend to accumulate petroleum toxins and retain them for more extended periods, and since they are food sources to whales, they are contributing to their mortality. Fish eggs and larva are also susceptible to petroleum toxins; this can lead to high deformity and mortality rates. Although adult fish are less sensitive to oil, they can accumulate toxins through altered food sources and habitats.

Effects on the Wildlife

Wildlife is directly exposed to these contaminants; the herbivorous can consume vegetation coated with oil particles. The carnivores also consume prey exposed to the oil sediments; the toxins impair the ability of the animal to absorb and digest food which leads to reduced health and ultimate death.
Oil poisons get absorbed in the animal’s bodies, which then damage the liver and kidney, thus suppressing their immune system. When bird’s feathers get clogged with oil, it reduces their ability to provide insulation, exposing them to the risk of hypothermia in the cold seasons. The oil also reduces their waterproof property; they are unable to fly, contributing to reduced survival rates since it will experience difficulties in looking for food and fleeing from predators.

Generally, oil spills can affect the environment through smothering, which affects physical functions in the marine, chemical toxin accumulation, causing impairment of cellular functions. Also, it leads to ecological changes due to loss of critical species in the habitats; indirect effects like the loss of habitats and elimination of vital species disrupt the natural life cycle. The magnitude of environmental impacts caused depends on the size of the spill, the type of oil spilled, the amount of exposure, and the exposure pathway.

In an effort to reduce the risk of spilling hazardous substances into the ocean, Gall Thompson have manufactured marine breakaway couplings to be used during loading and offloading.

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