Oil Spills

By Kimberly Wee

How do oil spills happen?

Oil spills can be caused by

  • People being careless or making mistakes
  • Different equipment breaking down
  • Natural disasters
  • Deliberate acts by people
  • Many more reasons
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Effects of Oil Spills

Oil spills have many effects on both humans and marine life. When an oil spill happens, it can effect the environment, the economy, and the tourism industry.
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The Environment

The animals that live in the water or near the shore where an oil spill takes place, are most effected by it. The oil can choke the animals and cause them to die.

Animals who have fur or feathers, such as otters, find it harder to float or regulate their body temperature because of the oil getting into their fur or feathers. Oil can also cause baby animals to die because they can't fend for themselves, and their parent cannot detect their scent because of the oil.

Birds who get oil in their feathers and try to get it out by preening themselves, accidentally swallow the oil and die due to the toxic effects.

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The Economy

The amount of petroleum and gas available for use is decreased. This means that more barrels have to be imported from other countries

Cleaning the oil spill requires a lot of financing. Even though the company that caused the oil spill has to clean it up, a lot of government help is needed at this point.

The workers that are hired to clean the spill face a lot of health problems later on in life. Their medical bills have to be paid for, and that is either the responsibility of the government or the responsibility of the company that hired them.

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The Tourism Industry

Tourists will stay away from areas that are affected by the oil spills. Various activities such as rafting, swimming or any other water related activities have to be canceled due to oil in the sea.

Industries that rely on the ocean on a day to day basis have to stop their operations until the spill gets cleaned.

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One of the solutions to cleaning up oil spills is using chemical dispersants. Chemical dispersants reduce the damage that can be done to the marine life and coastal area. The dispersants contain components that bond with the oil molecules and separate them from the water and break up the spill.
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The advantages of using chemical dispersants to clean up oil spills are

  • They remove the spilled oil from the surface of the ocean
  • They make the oil more soluble in water so it won't just sit on the surface
  • Reduces damage done by floating oil
  • Minimises the damage that could be done to coastline


The disadvantages of using chemical dispersants to clean up oil spills are

  • They don't actually remove the oil from the water entirely
  • They spread the spilled oil more extensively into the atmosphere
  • There is a risk to marine life

How using chemical dispersants affects the environment

The dispersants and dispersed oil have shown to have a negative impact on the environment. It creates a toxic environment for fish by releasing harmful products into the water. Coral is affected by the dispersants because the dispersed oil and dispersants are particularly toxic to coral. If sea turtles absorb the dispersants, it can affect their organs, and interfere with digestion, excretion and respiration. Studies have found that dispersed oil can damage the insulating properties of seabird feathers, making them more susceptible to hypothermia and death.


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