Energy & Environment

Federal study: BP oil spill cause record dolphin deaths

BP, Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spill
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The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill at a BP well caused a record number of dolphin deaths in an area of the northern Gulf, federal researchers concluded Wednesday.

The peer-reviewed study was conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other organizations.

{mosads}It found that bottlenose dolphins that died in unusually high numbers after the spill had elevated rates of lung and adrenal lesions consistent with exposure to petroleum, and researchers were able to link the conditions to the 87-day spill that followed an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

It is just the last research into the ongoing environmental harms from the at least 3.19 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf.

“This is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies, conducted over the five years since the spill, looking at possible reasons for the historically high number of dolphin deaths that have occurred within the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” Teri Rowles, an NOAA veterinarian and one of the 22 authors on the paper, said in a statement.

“These studies have increasingly pointed to the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons as being the most significant cause of the illnesses and deaths plaguing the Gulf’s dolphin population,” she said.

From studying tissue from the dead dolphins, scientists concluded that the likely causes of death included adrenal insufficiency and increased susceptibility to various diseases, caused by the oil exposure.

BP shot back at the researchers.

“This new paper fails to show that the illnesses observed in some dolphins were caused by exposure to Macondo oil,” the company said in a statement, referring to the name of the oil prospect that hosted the well.

“In fact, numerous studies conducted over the last several decades have shown that respiratory illness — one of the conditions cited — is among the most common causes of death for bottlenose dolphins, including a study where half of the dolphins examined had pneumonia,” it continued.

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