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Oil Spill Effects Uncertain

BP has promised $10m for studies to monitor public health in the region, although it says there is no evidence that exposure to pollutants was above recommended minimum levels or that the incidence of sickness among clean-up workers was abnormal.

There is great uncertainty, over the environmental impact of the spill. The US government is conducting a Natural Resource Damage Assessment, to determine its effect on the plants and animals of the gulf region, in order to calculate a bill for BP for environmental costs. It expects to have an initial assessment in October, and there will probably be a final report in about a year’s time.

But although there have been some very visible effects, such as the 8,065 dead and oiled birds reported last year, the consequences for the ecosystem will not be known for many years.

“Science takes a lot of time,” says Lisa Suatoni, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council, an environmental group.

“Every oil spill has two phases: the acute and the chronic. We still don’t have a full account of the acute phase of this spill, and we are nowhere near an understanding of the chronic phase.”

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