Oil pollution

Pollution of any kind is an unfortunate circumstance in a world where there is so much information only a click away. Oil pollution is one of the many forms of pollution that plague our earth. This type of pollution doesn’t just affect the oceans, it affects land environments too. It seems to be better contained on land though than it is at sea. It is good for people to educate themselves and know the many oil pollution facts as well as how to curb it. Ignorance of this problem means that it will continue to destroy earth’s ecosystems.

Oil pollution definition

What is oil pollution? This is a question that many have asked. Oil pollution occurs when oil in its various forms is introduced to environments and contaminates them. Most times the oil that pollutes environments is put there by people in one way or the other. Oil is toxic to certain organisms and is therefore harmful to them. The problem is a lot more widespread than just the organisms that cannot survive in oil. Other bigger organisms eat them and then the toxins are carried through the food chain, sometimes coming back to the human beings that introduced that oil in the first place.

Causes of oil pollution

The sad truth is that many of the causes of oil pollution are man-made. Oil spills cause oil pollution. These may happen because of negligence or from genuine accidents. Cases of negligence include tankers that leak because they have not been properly maintained, or when spills occur because employees do not follow the proper procedures when loading oil onto tankers. Oil pollution can also take place when crude oil leaks from drilling rigs and wells, as well as off shore oil platforms.

Some oil pollution in the ocean is because of deliberate action by people. Things such as routine maintenance and cleaning of oil carrying vessels introduce oil into the ocean. Some countries pour their liquid waste into the ocean. There are regulations about how this can be safely done, but that waste more often than not contains large amounts of oil that people have poured down their drains.

In the interests of being fair to people, not all oil pollution is caused by human activities. Sedimentary rocks at the bottom of the ocean erode due to natural processes and release oil. Seepage also occurs from natural oil reservoirs in the ocean. All this oil being released into the ocean in one way or the other causes pollution.

Oil pollution facts

  1. Oil pollution has a worse effect in the oceans than on land. This is because the ocean cannot absorb oil, and it cannot be dissolved in the water. That means that the oil has no place to go. It spreads over the water at times for hundreds of kilometres depending on how much oil has been released, negatively affecting the ecosystems in its path.
  2. Oil spills introduce gases to ocean water that change its chemical composition. This change makes the water turn more acidic. This in turn leads to the degradation of fragile ocean habitats like the coral reefs.
  3. When oil is spilled in the oceans, birds and mammals are also affected. Some birds dive into the oceans in search of food. When they do this in the presence of oil, it covers their feathers and impairs their ability to fly. Birds drown in this way. The oil also seeps through the fur of ocean mammals, which affects the way in which they block out the cold. This means that they are then subjected to colder temperatures than they can survive under and so they freeze to death. These animals also clean themselves, ingesting the oil on their bodies. This oil is poisonous for them. Some of the creatures that die due to oil pollution are already endangered and could very well be facing extinction if this continues expansion tank.
  4. The effects of oil pollution can be very dramatic in the short term, but they do not end there. Some long term effects can also be seen in the fish that live in the oceans. Marine biologists have noticed changes such as decreased liver function, slow reproductive and growth rates.
  5. Though many efforts may be employed to clean up oil pollution in the oceans, there is evidence to suggest that this may take a very long time. The oil may never be fully removed from these ecosystems.
  6. One of the ways in which oil pollution is cleaned up is to burn it. They try to contain the area that they burn, which is commendable, but this method has negative effects on the habitat of that localised area.
  7. Habitats that are polluted by oil may take many years to recover. It could take mangroves up to 50 years to recover from oil pollution because they are particularly sensitive to oil.

A case in point of just how serious oil pollution oil pollution is can be seen in the BP oil spill that took place in 2010. More than 750 million litres of crude oil were spilled into the ocean over a period of almost 3 months. People got together in a cleanup effort that involved burning the oil on the ocean surface. Despite all this effort there was still oil present in the ocean 2 years later. Many species of birds, turtles and other animals were reported to have died. Some of these were on the endangered species lists.

Oil pollution facts are plenty, but the major point to remember is that we must continue to strive to minimise the occurrences of oil pollution. Governments and other groups are working hard to reduce the incidents of oil pollution but the onus is on us, all the people that live on this planet, to safeguard it for future generations to reduce oil pollution in the ocean. If we do not do this, our children and their children may never know the beauty of the oceans and the creatures that depend on them.


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