Environment dolphins

Published on December 19th, 2013 | by No Artificial

Dolphins Much Sicker After BP Oil Spill

According to a new study, dolphins in the area of BP’s 2010 oil spill showed major signs of sickness.

A year after BP’s disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of researchers found that dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay suffered from a serious health problems.

A team of government, academic and non-governmental researchers examined 32 dolphins, including 29 that received comprehensive physical and ultrasound examinations.

According to the study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, nearly half of the tested dolphins were found to be in “guarded or worse” condition and 17 percent were listed as “grave” and “not expected to survive.”

Among the health issues were lung damage and low levels of adrenal stress-response hormones.
A quarter of the dolphins were also underweight.

The scientists said the dolphins’ symptoms were similar to those of mammals in laboratory studies of oil exposure.

“The decreased cortisol [hormone] response is something fairly unusual but has been reported from experimental studies of mink exposed to fuel oil,” researchers reported. “The respiratory issues are also consistent with experimental studies in animals and clinical reports of people exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons.”

“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals — and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities,” lead author Dr. Lori Schwacke stated in a NOAA press release.

Many factors the dolphins studied faced could contribute to their poor health, including existing environmental conditions, and the presence of PCBs, DDT and other pesticides in the Gulf waters.

The researchers have noted that dolphin deaths in Barataria Bay are part of a larger unusual mortality event that has affected the northern Gulf of Mexico region since February 2010 and contains at least 1,050 strandings. One “cannot dismiss the possibility that other pre-existing environmental stressors made this population particularly vulnerable to effects from the oil spill,” the study’s authors wrote.

BP financed the research but now, is disputing its finding. The company claims that the dolphins’ poor health could be attributed to preexisting conditions in the Gulf -like contaminants and algae blooms, or natural diseases.

But a study of dolphins in a bay in Sarasota, which contains similar levels of contaminants but not oil, suggests otherwise. In fact, the sampled Sarasota Bay dolphins were found to be five times healthier than the Barataria dolphins exposed to the oil spill.

A BP spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that NOAA “still hasn’t provided BP with any data demonstrating that the alleged poor health of any dolphins was caused by oil exposure.”

The company has also announced it had made a “significant oil discovery” after drilling a well in approximately 4,900 feet of water about 300 miles from New Orleans.


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