By Claire Rehome
What do I need to know?
Roughly 644 million gallons are deposited in the oceans by humans each year. Even 5 quarts of oil can contaminate millions of gallons of water. 70% of spills are caused by human error.
(Oil Spills, 2007)
When is this even happening?
Accidents happen regularly. Collisions and groundings account for 2/3 of at-sea spills. Fewer than 1/2 of Americans do their own oil changes, but about 1/3 of the oil is disposed of incorrectly.
(Oil Pollution, 2003)
Where is this?
Most spills happen at the mouths of rivers leading to the ocean. They also happen off the coasts of islands, at sea, or near continental coasts.
Who is effected?
Almost all oil spills are caused by human error while transporting and drilling oil, or people not throwing away oil correctly. This is bad news for anything living in the ocean. Oil can suffocate fish when it is ingested. Birds' wings can become caked with oil leaving them unable to fly. When the oil is covering the surface of an ocean, sea, river, lake, etc. it can block the sun from photosynthetic plants. Also if a marine mammal ingests oil, it can suffer from kidney failure, nerve damage, and if pregnant their offspring could have brain disorders.
You can help!
People around the world can help by letting a trained mechanic change their oil next time. Also, if you're close to a spill, contact your community about a clean-up effort.
In 1990 the Oil Pollution Act was passed by the 101st U.S. congress and was also signed by George H. W. Bush. The bill states that any U.S. oil drilling company must have a "plan to prevent spills that may occur" and " detailed containment and cleanup plans."
The United Nations treaty MARPOL (MARine POLution) that went into effect in 1983 is credited with reducing oil pollution stemming from the shipping industry.The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) both work to prevent and clean up oil pollution in the ocean.
"Accidents." Ocean Planet: Oil Pollution. N.p., 2004. Web. 27 Jan. 2013. http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/peril_oil_pollution.html.
Owens, Peter. Oil and Chemical Spills. San Diego, CA: Lucent, 2004. Print.
"Water Pollution." Water Pollution. N.p., 2007. Web. 27 Jan. 2013. http://www.water-pollution.org.uk/>.