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  • Writer's pictureRamesh Chaurasia

The dangers of oil spills: a neglected type of pollution

The dangers of oil spills: a neglected type of pollution

The dangers of oil spills: a neglected type of pollution

The oil spill is one of the common forms of pollution that most people are either not aware of or do not take seriously. If you are wondering what oil spills mean then in simple terms it is the discharge of petroleum into water bodies. It occurs mostly due to human negligence when crude oil is released from wells and tankers into the aquatic ecosystem.

Because majority of times the amount of is less, people do not realise the gravity of this problem. Innumerable minor oil spills when combined with a number of major oil spills make the condition really horrifying for our marine ecosystem as it has been estimated that the total quantity of oil discharged into the world’s oceans is more than a million metric tons every year. What else can make us realize that this is a pressing global issue is when we look back in history. There have been some catastrophic incidents of oil spills all over the globe, including India. For instance the Ennore oil spill of 2017.

Before we dive in to take a look at the scary consequences of oil spills, let us understand why the spilling of oil in water is such a huge problem. The reason behind this is mainly the properties of oil.

  • Firstly, since oil is largely immiscible in water, it forms oil slicks that exist in nature for long periods of time.

  • Secondly, some of the components of oil are soluble in water to a certain extent. These components interfere with the marine life.

  • Thirdly, as you must know oil is lighter than water. Due to this property of oil, when oil spills in a water body, it spreads to the huge areas of the marine ecosystem.

  • Lastly, oil has some compounds that are highly volatile. So when it is accumulated on top of a water body, these compounds evaporate, thus polluting the air as well.

Marine life: serious victims of oil spills

The impact of oil spills on marine ecosystem will shook you to the core. Although it is not much harmful as long as the oil stays on the surface of water, when some of its components enter into the water body, it becomes extremely dangerous for the marine life.

When whales and dolphins inhale oil, it blocks their blowholes, choking them by not letting them breathe properly. Other marine mammals are also affected by oil spills in one way or the other. To cite an example, mammals with fur like otters and seals get covered with oil and become susceptible to hypothermia. The same is the case with sea birds who dive in water in search of food. Their migratory patterns are also disturbed by oil spills. These are the direct ways in which oil spills impact marine mammals and birds. Before looking at the indirect ways in which they are affected we will have to understand how oil spills affect small marine organisms like fish.

When fish and shellfish come in contact with oil, it has several negative effects on their organs and functioning. They might get enlarged liver and impairment in reproductive functions and their growth might also become impaired. Not only that, oil makes these organisms unfit for consumption, thus indirectly affecting marine mammals and birds.

Another way in which oil spills harm marine life is by wrecking havoc on their habitats and breeding grounds. When the larvae or eggs of these organisms are exposed to oil, they are destroyed by it.

Indirect impact on human life

As fish become contaminated, it becomes detrimental for human beings who consume them.

Oil spills also make people who are dependent on marine life for their livelihood like fishermen highly vulnerable to health problems and as a result it might take away their means of survival from them.

The end

To minimize the effects of oil spills on environment, it is important that the concerned authorities take preventive measures and be prepared to tackle such spills immediately when it happens in the future because if handled effectively at the earliest, the impact of these oil spills on the environment would be much less.


Author-Ramesh Chaurasia

A superior and highly experienced entrepreneur in the field of business for quite a long time now. Also, a philanthropist, author and public speaker who believes in working towards the overall well being and betterment of the society as a whole.

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