A new study released this week links the 2010 BP oil spill with lung disease in dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. An alarming spike in lung diseases, abnormalities, and dolphin fatalities was the catalyst for the study, which BP itself funded. While the devastating environmental impacts of the spill are undisputed, BP dismissed the results of the study, arguing that “the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) still hasn’t provided BP with any data demonstrating that the alleged poor health of any dolphins was caused by oil exposure.”
The study consisted of the capture, examination and release of 30 bottlenose dolphins in the affected Gulf waters, and compared their health to dolphins living in unaffected areas. Moderate to severe lung disease associated with oil contamination were present in many of the dolphins from the affected areas, and almost half were listed as having a “guarded or worse prognosis. 17% were listed as “grave” and are not expected to live.
Scientists who conducted the study were unequivocal. “It is related to oil. The weight of the evidence is there” said Lori Schwacke, the study’s lead author and a wildlife epidemiologist at the NOAA. This peer-reviewed paper was published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology.
Dismantling BP’s reputation is not the priority of most scientists and professionals involved. Experts working to better the state of the Gulf are relieved to see the truth being reported and acknowledged. “Having this information gets us started on the path toward a solution, toward fixing what has been broken for 3 ½ years” says Casi Callway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper. 4.2 million barrels of oil are going to have lasting and damaging effects on the environment, ecosystems, and the health and development of all wildlife.