By the time the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is contained and the leaking sunken oil platform capped the damage to the U.S. shoreline may dwarf the Exxon Valdex spill of 1989. The potential contamination of the nearby wildlife and shoreline is dependent upon many factors such as the location of the spill, the type of oil, and the weather. Since oil tends to float on the water's surface it usually has a devastating effect on marine mammals and sea birds who, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, will not necessarily avoid an oil spill. "Marine mammals, such as seals and dolphins, have been seen swimming and feeding in or near an oil spill." "Some fish are attracted to oil because it looks like floating food." "This endangers sea birds, which are attracted to schools of fish and may dive through oil slicks to get to them."
It's important to remember that an oil spill can also affect the health of the human population, especially those nearby wanting to help. The NIH has a special warning for the public, "An oil spill emergency is no place for onlookers." "Untrained people can actually harm the natural resources they are trying to help and could actually harm themselves due to direct exposure to the oil and it's toxic fumes."
There are nearly 4,000 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The debate about off shore drilling, especially in the Gulf, will only intensify. We are ScienceSource.com. View our stock photos of Oil Spills, The Environmental Impact, and the Clean-up Effort.
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