How Toxic Is Oil?

| February 2, 2016 | Reply

How Toxic Is Oil?

Assessing the toxicity of oil is a tricky business. The main difficulty is that “oil” is a mixture of many different chemicals, and no two oils are the same. Proportions of chemicals vary even within a single category of oil, like crude oil or diesel oil.

For example, Arabian crude oil, Louisiana crude oil, and Alaska North Slope crude oil represent very different mixtures that will behave differently in the environment and have different toxic effects to exposed organisms.

It was Alaska North Slope crude oil that spilled from the Exxon Valdez into Prince William Sound. Alaska North Slope crude oil contains many chemicals that can kill a plant or animal outright, or cause injury to the extent that it has less chance of surviving in the wild. For example:

  • Oil, in high enough concentrations, can poison animals by internal and external routes of exposure.
  • Birds and mammals often die because oil fouls fur and feathers so that they no longer insulate.
  • Smaller organisms can be smothered by a thick layer of oil washing ashore.
  • Recent research studies by NOAA scientists have shown that even small amounts of petroleum hydrocarbons can impair the successful development of fish eggs and embryos.READ MORE

Category: Oil harms wild life, Oil Spills

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