Although oil is one of our population’s main source of energy, it also causes many issues. When mistakes are made that lead to an oil spill, our planet is put into serious risk. Oil spills can be caused by damaged offshore oil rigs, pipelines, or tankers. The damage caused can last for years, decades even.
Our planet is made up of fragile ecosystems that must remain undisturbed and uninterrupted. Among these fragile ecosystems that can be destroyed by oil spills are aquatic ecosystems. When a spill occurs, every inch of the ecosystem can be coated in oil and will take years cleaning up. From rocks and to every grain of sand, it washes out to coastal marshes, mangrove forests, fibrous plants, and grasses absorb oil. This leads to unsustainable aquatic wildlife.
The damage doesn’t stop there; even more disastrous effects occur when the oil sinks from floating on top of the water. When the oil sinks, underwater ecosystems are also destroyed. Many fish and marine organisms die, leading to a major loss in the global food chain.
Damaged Marine Life
Not only are fragile aquatic ecosystems destroyed, but the mammals, birds and other fish as well. Sea birds are coated in oil when they swim and dive for their food in the polluted ocean. Being coated an oil makes it impossible to fly and destroys their natural waterproofing and insulation, which causes hypothermia or overheating. This can also lead to migration disasters due to their inability to fly.
Marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals, and sea otters are killed because of oil spills. The blowholes of dolphins and whales are clogged, which makes it impossible for them to breathe. Much like sea birds, when a seal or otter’s coat is covered in oil, it puts them at risk for hypothermia. Even if the mammals are able to escape, they still may be poisoned by the pollution and later get sick or die.
Drinking Water Sources
Destroyed aquatic life is not the only disastrous outcome of oil spills. Humans are also affected and put at major risk. When the water is contaminated, many communities’ drinking water is affected. Oil spills will make the water undrinkable and an expensive problem to make right. Water plants must be shut down and river intakes are turned off for everyone’s safety. Drinking polluted water can lead to severe sickness and even death.
Besides the effect on communities’ drinking water, not much is known on the other health effects that can happen to humans. It has been found that exposure to toxic oil can be linked to respiratory problems, irritations in the eyes or skin, neurological effects such as headaches and dizziness, and traumatic pain.