Science of the Spill: 13 August 2010

Oil Slick, Mississippi River Delta, Gulf of Mexico, an astronaut photo taken from the International Space Station, image courtesy NASA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The news from science is trickling out more slowly now. Many researchers have collected a ton of new data, which they’re currently in the process of analyzing. Expect a scientific baby boom about nine months from now. But what is getting out is really interesting:

  • A growing concern that BP’s use of dispersants facilitated the release of toxic oil componentsincluding benzene, a carcinogen, and toluene, which can cause neurological damage—and which are still remaining in the water. (In my article, BP’s Deep Secrets, I wrote about the alarming volatility of the oil washing ashore in Louisiana.)
  • Concerns about the long-term effects of even weathered oil. A series of papers (here and here) highlight the ongoing problems with pink salmon and Pacific herring eggs and larvae in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, from the kind of of weathered oil that NOAA and BP would like us to believe is now harmless.
  • Perhaps as a beneficial side-effect of BP’s  cataclysm, a Candian court handed down a temporary injunction on behalf of a group representing Inuit interests to halt plans for seismic studies of the Earth’s crust in eastern Canadian Arctic waters. This is a thinly-veiled effort to locate Arctic oil and gas reserves. The 8 August decision by the Nunavut Court of Justice bars the RV Polarstern from beginning its research activities over fears the cruise could impact wildlife and raise the prospects for oil drilling in the region. Sonar sounding for fossil fuels imperils bowhead whales, their calves, and other marine life.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate