Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BP Oil Poisons the Gulf of Mexico’s Food Chain -- Dahr Jamail & Erika Blumenfeld



"Do you know how the pelicans die of oil?" asked Dean Wilson, executive director of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper. "They open their wings, thinking they are drying them in the sun, and they just cook in the sun. Thousands of birds are dying like that because of the greed of a foreign company."

The organisation Wilson heads is dedicated to preserving the ecosystems of the Atchafalaya Basin on the Louisiana Coast. He is incensed at the catastrophic impact the BP oil disaster, which has been ongoing for nearly three months.

Oil began to gush into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion Apr. 20 on the Deepwater Horizon oilrig, which BP leased from the Swiss firm Transocean. Two days later, the platform sank. As of Jul. 20, the company had capped the well and stopped the flow of oil, though tests continue on the cap's structural integrity.

Wilson is angry about what he perceives as BP's lack of willingness to implement measures necessary to adequately protect wildlife.

For example, the company is not rescuing the chicks of oiled adult birds, nor is it allowing local environmentalists, like himself, to go out and participate in animal rescue efforts.

"You have to realise that it takes two parents to raise the chicks in these areas. If one of the parents gets into the oil, the other parent alone cannot raise the chicks, and the chicks are going to die," he said.

There are at least as many chicks that have died as there are rescued pelicans, and the number rescued is "only the tip of the iceberg," said Wilson.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as of Jul. 14, 553 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline was oiled, 2,930 birds had been recovered (1,828 of them dead and 1,102 of them oiled), along with more than 500 dead sea turtles and other mammals.

More than 45,000 workers are currently responding to the BP oil disaster, but higher-end estimates show that as much as 8.4 million barrels of BP oil has been released into the Gulf, and more than 6.8 million litres of chemical dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 used (the same chemicals are banned in Great Britain).

The dispersants are believed to cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs, difficulty breathing, respiratory system damage, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, genetic damage and mutations, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage.

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