Effects of Oil Spill

Oil spill not only has physical, mental and social effects on living beings but also has environmental and economic effects. Although light oils such as gasoline and diesel evaporate easily, they have toxic effects but when heavy oils like bunker oils are spilled in an area, it’s chemical component stays attached to that area for a long period of time affecting the life cycle of inhabitants.(4) Majority of seabirds have been affected due to the oil sticking on their feathers which destroys their waterproofing and insulation causing hypothermia. The heavy oil on their feather makes it difficult for them to fly. Hence, they end up dying due to the inability to use their wings and gather food. Consumption of the spilled oil by marine animals causes toxins in their body and sometimes it passes on to their predators. (8) According to a study carried out to determine the possible genotoxic effects on people or animals who consume marine food containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which comes from oil spills. (8) After the Erika oil spill where the tanker sank in the coast of France in 1999, Mussels affected by the oil spill were fed to rats daily over 2 and 4 weeks. Increase in damage of DNA(P<0.001) in the liver and the bone marrow was observed to be crucial although there was no proof of genotoxicity in the blood samples which proved that oil spill has significant effects in the health of sea food consumers.(4) Health problems such as respiratory diseases, eye irritation, immune-toxic effects, et cetera increased among the people surrounding the area of the oil spill. People living around the areas of major oil spills were reported to have major psychological disorders. As per the community survey conducted among 599 men and women around a year after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 20.2% and 9.4% of the people were found to have a generalized anxiety disorder and pos-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). (4) It was also observed that women were more vulnerable to these disorders than men during the oil spill and cleanup process. People from certain cultural backgrounds such as the indigenous group had more effect than the Euro-Americans which showed that culture also played an important role in the presence or absence of disorders. (8)

Vegetation is also highly affected by the oil spill as it blocks the photosynthesis process by coating the leaves and preventing the absorption of sunlight. (5) It also degrades the quantity as well as the quality of minerals and nutrients found in plants and makes it poisonous. Such situations decrease the supply of vegetation and results in a price hike in the market. These difference in prices directly or indirectly affects the social capital as well as creates conflict in society as there are competition and struggle for food and survival. (5) The economy of a place which depends mainly on its water resources can be highly affected by the oil spill. Exports of seafood, industries, and tourism play a major role in economic advancement, but the release of toxic substances into water contaminates the varieties of seafood and makes it non-edible for humans. (6) Many industries rely on water for sanitation, processing, cooling, and transportation purposes but oil mixed with water contaminates the entire system. Oil spill also pollutes the beaches and other public attraction spots and restricts activities such as boating, surfing, diving, et cetera. Tourists hesitate to visit such places due to their toxic environment. The hotel bookings in the tourism industry around Texas and Florida region went down by 20.2% during the first month after BP oil spill which impacted the economy. (6) People started losing jobs and their properties are damaged which directly affects the labor market and income.

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