Environmental Effects of Oil Pollution

by Thomas A. Murphy, Biological Programs Advisor; Ofc. of Res. and Development Water Quality Office, Envir. Protection Agency, Washington, DC; formerly, Edison Water Quality Lab., Edison NJ,

Serial Information: Journal of the Sanitary Engineering Division, 1971, Vol. 97, Issue 3, Pg. 361-371

Document Type: Journal Paper


Until recently, oil pollution has been considered a hazard primarily for its visible effects on birds and beaches. However, greater resource damage may occur from the less visible effects of spilled oil on marine life. These effects are a complex result of the type and quantity of oil and circumstances of the spill. A recent, moderately-sized spill of distillate fuel oil off Cape Cod caused extensive damage to many types of coastal marine life, including a massive initial kill and uptake and persistence of oil in sediments and in tissues of shellfish. A review of the literature indicates that these observations were not unique, but had been observed with previous spills, depending on the type of oil and how much was dispersed into the water column. More damage may be occurring to marine life from oil spills, especially chronic spills, than has been previously assumed. Proper observation and investigation is required to reveal this damage.

Subject Headings: Hazardous materials spills | Lifeline systems | Environmental issues | Pollution | Birds | Beaches | Oils | Sediment

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