Fish Exposed to Gulf Oil Spill Show Abnormalities

Tuesday, 27 Sep 2011 10:59 AM

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Gulf of Mexico fish exposed to the BP oil spill last summer are exhibiting signs of cell abnormalities. The aberrations were found in minnow-like killifish and could lead to reproductive problems, The Washington Post reported.

Killifish showed cell abnormalities two months after the oil had disappeared and killifish embryos exposed in the lab to water from the same site, also developed cellular abnormalities, according to the findings, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and compiled by researchers from Louisiana State, Texas State and Clemson universities.

“Their biology is telling us that they’ve been a), exposed to these chemicals and b), affected by them in negative ways,” professor Andrew Whitehead told the Post.

“Very low-level exposures can cause these toxic effects,” said Whitehead, an associate biology professor at LSU and the paper’s lead author.

The killifish examined were taken from six areas from Barataria Bay in Louisiana to Mobile Bay off Alabama. The fish were showing the same initial signs of toxicity that appeared in herring and harlequin ducks after Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, Whitehead said. Populations of those species declined precipitously and have yet to recover, the Post reported.

“You can have a fish that’s safe to eat but is still not healthy,” Whitehead told the Post. He added that sediment containing hydrocarbons could expose species over time as the sediment is disturbed by storms.

“The sediments are going to act as this long-term reservoir of oil, of potential exposure,” he said.

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