Oil Spills: Why are They so Commonly Discussed?

By Anagha Dogiparthi

You’ve probably read in one article or another about oil spills, and how detrimental they can be for the ocean and the animals that live in oceans.

You have also probably read about a brilliant student or scientist who has come up with a solution to these troublesome spills and have also probably skimmed over most of the details.

I don’t blame you—after all, oil spills don’t affect us in any way. Right?

Well, to answer that question, we’ve got to understand what causes oil spills in the first place. Then, we can dive deeper into how they impact the ocean and the animals within it, and how that can come full circle.

Oil spills can often be traced back to human-made accidents or intentional acts of violence, as well as sometimes natural disasters. Some of these human-made accidents include malfunctioning oil transportations from different countries or states , leaking unhealthy amounts of oil into the ocean—impacting both marine life and human lives.

Oil Spill Disasters: How to Limit Environmental Damage

An example of how ships can get into detrimental accidents that cause large amounts of oil to be deposited into the ocean.

One example of this is the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The sudden explosion on the BP Oilrig killed 11 workers and leaked 40,000 to 162,000 barrels a day into the Gulf until it was capped around 90 days later. Considering the amount of oil that was spilled, the surrounding ecosystems were devastatingly impacted.

Because of the ocean’s harsh temperatures and tendencies, animals have built protective features in order to prevent being unexpected victims. You may think back to sea otters, most of which have thick protective barriers to keep them from freezing in the frigid temperatures they reside in.

The Rebound of the Sea Otter

Sea Otters in their natural habitats; they use their fur to protect them from the frigid temperatures of the ocean, as well as whatever other places they may choose to reside in.

Since the oil is something they are not very used to, it affects their protective measures and essentially renders them useless. To put it into perspective, imagine being placed into the ocean with no time to get adjusted to the extreme temperatures—that’s right, it would be horrible.

Additionally, if the animals aren’t able to see the oil in time, they might try to ingest it while attempting to clean themselves. This could be deadly to ones who have not built up the resistance to these new liquids.

Not only do oil spills affect animals, but they also have the ability to restrict photosynthesis in plants. This means that humans in the general area might have a limited amount of oxygen, as plants cannot generate the regular amount due to the interruptions caused.

Overall, oil spills cause a large chain of effects that take a significant amount of time to stop and can be very harmful to the wellbeing of the environment, humans, and animals in the general area.

We now have a sneak peek into how this can affect humans, and I’m sure you can make a few inferences as to how this is going to go, but we need to get deeper into the details in order to truly understand what kind of impact this can have on our health.

After a study conducted by the Amazon Frontlines Force, data was collected regarding both the neurological as well as physical damages acquired by humans after extended exposure to the oil spill environment.

These include various skin irritations, headaches, dizziness, and sores. Although this may not seem like a lot individually, it could definitely take a turn for the worse if left untreated.

Oil spills also have the potential to leak into nearby plants and vegetables that humans consume on a daily basis. If the infestation is not discovered in time, these plants could be distributed to grocery stores and farmer’s markets who will unknowingly give unhealthy food to the humans who consume them.

Effects of Oil Spills | LoveToKnow

Oil Spills leaking into the nearby plants, contaminating them with their unknown contents and potentially harmful unfiltered minerals.

Aside from being disgusting, eating this contaminated food can lead to stomach problems and more dire diseases like cancer.

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with you—after all, you’re not responsible for the accidents or natural disasters that may plague our Earth for a long time to come.

Even though that may be true, there are some steps that we as a society can take to reduce our intake of oil and prevent the number of accidents. Some ways to do this could be to use public transportation more frequently, eat more vegetarian foods, eat locally, and go to protests that aim to ask larger companies to stop investing and supporting large oil companies.

There are a lot of things we can do to help support the failing environment and the suffering animals as a backlash from that, and it is important that we recognize that. Check out this link to see more steps you can take to help, and how a group of inspiring individuals took to chasing a solution to a detrimental issue.


  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, February 11). Oil spills. MedlinePlus. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/oilspills.html.

  2. Office of Response and Restoration. (2019, February 5). How do Spills Happen? Office of Response and Restoration. https://response.restoration.noaa.gov/training-and-education/education-students-and-teachers/how-do-spills-happen.html

  3. Oil Care. (2015). Impact of Oil Spills. Oil Care. http://oilcare.org.uk/what-we-do/impacts-of-oil/

  4. Webb, J. (n.d.). What do We Know About Oil Spills That Affect Human Health? Not Enough. Amazon Frontlines. Retrieved October 2021, from https://www.amazonfrontlines.org/chronicles/health-oil/#:~:text=Studies%20of%20biomarkers%20have%20uncovered,(hydrocarbons%20and%20heavy%20metals)

  5. Environmental Pollution Centers. (n.d.). Oil Spills' Effects on Human Life. Environmental Pollution Centers. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.environmentalpollutioncenters.org/oil-spill/humans/

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