Oil Spill Effects on Human and the Environment
                                                                                By Patience Agbom
Our planet, Earth, has large reserves of oil and gas trapped deep beneath its surface. Occasionally, these reserves develop cracks and some of the oil or gases seep out. However, this is a part of nature and rarely causes any major damage.
On the other hand, there are times when the same problem is caused because of human interference and it can cause a great deal of damage to marine ecosystems. In the last thirty odd years, the issue of oil spills and their effects has taken on much importance. This is because when an oil spill occurs, it causes a multitude of problems for the environment and us.
An oil spill is the release of liquid petroleum into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is usually applied to spills into water bodies (stream, river, sea and ocean) when oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters, but spills may also occur on land.
An oil spillage can also happen when liquid petroleum is released into the envir
onment by vehicle, vessel or pipeline. It happens on a large scale and is mostly seen in water bodies. It happens due to human negligence and is a major form of pollution. The sources of the spill are many. Crude oil can be released by tankers on land.
In water bodies, the spill occurs due to drilling rigs, offshore oil platforms and well. As oil spill, it floats on water and prevents sunlight to pass through it. The shiny substance that you see sometimes on top layer of water is nothing but oil which makes it difficult for plants and sea animals to survive. Cleaning up of oil spill is no easy task. Various factors need to be considered before carrying out operations. Some of them being amount of oil spilled, temperature of water, type of beaches and many more.
Oil spill can prove fatal for plant, animal and human life. The substance is so toxic that it can cause massive loss of species that live in the sea. Oil spill penetrates into the plumage and fur of birds, breaks down the insulating capabilities of feather which makes them heavier; disallow them to fly and kills them via poisoning or hypothermia.
1. Environmental Effects:
First of these is the environmental effect. The animals that live in the water or near the shore are the ones most affected by the spill. In most cases, the oil simply chokes the animals to death. Others that live
face a number of other problems. The oil works its way into the fur and plumage of the animals. As a result, both birds and mammals find it harder to float in the water or regulate their body temperatures. Many baby animals and birds starve to death, since their parents cannot detect their natural body scent. Birds that preen themselves to get rid of the oil accidentally swallow the oil and die due to the toxic effects. In many cases, the animals become blind due to repeated exposure to the oil. Dolphins, sea otters, fish, countless species of birds and many oceanic mammals face these consequences.
Countering these effects through cleaning the oil can take anywhere between a few weeks to many years, depending on the damage caused.
2. Effect on Economy: 
The second major effect of the oil spill is seen on the economy. When precious crude oil or refined petroleum is lost, it affects the amount of petroleum and gas available for use. This means more barrels have to be imported from other countries. Then comes the cost of cleaning the oil spill; this could be huge. Although the company responsible for the oil spills and their effects has to clean it up, a lot of government help is required at this point.
The workers that are brought on board to clean up the spill face tremendous health problems later in life as well. Their medical treatment has to be paid for and becomes the responsibility of the government. Putting all the methods of recovery into place and monitoring them take away resources from other more important works and hit the economy in subtle but powerful ways.
Industries that rely on sea water to carry on their day to day activities halt their operations till it gets cleaned.
3. Effect on Tourism Industry: 
The local tourism industry suffers a huge setback as most of the tourists stay away from such places. Dead birds, sticky oil and huge tar balls become common sight. Due to this, various activities such as sailing, swimming, rafting, fishing, parachute gliding cannot be performed.
4. Effects on human health 
The main effects of oil spills on humans may be due to direct and indirect contact with the spill. The main oil spill effects on humans include a variety of possible health effects, economic impact,
as well as recreational and aesthetic. A variety of health effects (from minor illnesses to serious conditions possibly including cancers). From direct exposure to oil spill – a variety of health effects may develop when the oil spill occurs close to where people live or work and may come in contact with humans through breathing gaseous oil compounds and/or oil compounds adsorbed on particulate matter (dispersed through air). Another exposure pathway may relate to activities in contaminated ground (e.g., soil) or through skin adsorption when touching spilled material.
Human health can also be affected by indirect exposure through consumption of contaminated food or water; this is especially relevant in the case of consumption of fish that was in contact or in an oil spill polluted environment. This is because some oil components have ability to “bioaccumulate” in living organisms. This means that if a fish lives in a polluted environment, it will keep adsorbing in its body some oil components (without excretion) which may reach concentrations higher than those of the surrounding waters. Through consumption of such polluted fish meat, humans may become seriously exposed to higher concentrations of oil components than in the surrounding environment or as compared to ingestion of the polluted water or bathing in the polluted water.

 

 

One Comment

Leave a Comment