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On 30th April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig of the famou,s BP exploded causing deaths to some 11 people, and subsequent leaking of crude oil into the Ocean. This caused an alarming effect on the environment around and beyond Louisiana.
This article highlights the effects of this oil spill on the environment and human beings. This is a public health issue because its effects have far-reaching repercussions on the environment, the health of human beings, faunal species, and animals. The extent of the oil spill was felt throughout the Gulf of Mexico and even beyond its boundaries.
The magnitude and effects of the oil spill
By April 20, 2010, the spill had grown to 1600 square miles and an estimated 42,000 gallons of additional crude oil continued to spill into the gulf daily (The Huffington Post). Crude oil is known to contain Nitrogen and large amounts of Sulfur. This is because it is a fossil fuel. When it undergoes combustion, it releases these elements to the atmosphere. When mixed with atmospheric water, the elements combine to form acidic rain. Combustion here means when the fuel is burnt in the presence of Oxygen.
In the event of the oil spill where there is no combustion, this may not occur. However, the volatile organic compounds of Nitrogen and Sulfur evaporate. When evaporation is followed by a large amount of precipitation, acid rain will be formed (Chen, 2010). Acid rain is precipitation with higher than normal level of acidity when measured on the pH. This is due to the presence of notably high amounts of NOX (Nitrous Oxides) and SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide). (Briney, 2010)
Sometimes excessive amounts of CO2 in the air may also mix with rain water to form an acidic rain. The source of this Carbon Dioxide may be from the fossil fuel in automobiles. Industrial emission of Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen are also major causes of acid rain.
Effects of acid rain
Acid rain has adverse effects on the environment and human beings as a whole. This rain affects almost all kinds of man made structures and animals.
Below are the main effects of acidic rain.
- It corrodes metal works and statues made of limestone
- It causes damage to forests by causing trees to lose their leaves.
- It alters soil nutrients killing microorganisms that inhabit the soil.
- Alters the pH of water bodies thereby killing aquatic organisms.
- The deposition caused by acid rain causes magnesium and aluminum to be released by clays. This alters the pH of the soil.
- Acid rain corrodes modern buildings.
- Acidic deposition also causes corrosion to planes, railway lines, bridges and pipes.
- Death of microorganisms caused by acid rain causes the soil to lose fertility (Briney, 2010).
The above effects are just but a few. Although sometimes people come up with heresies on the occurrence and effects of acid rains, such claims should be refuted with appropriate referencing to clear out the air. Organizations such as NASA help in clarification of such information that pertains to the atmosphere.
Several organizations and agencies have come up with ways to mitigate this problem. They range from environmental organizations to public health departments. Initially it was conceived to be a small issue that could be solved by the BP Company itself.
However as the situation worsened, BP was forced to engage the services of environmental, public health and other organizations. Currently, there are several public health agencies involved in this issue. These departments are involved with mitigation strategies that would otherwise affect the environment to a great extent. They include:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units – Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Association of Poison Control Centers
- Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine
These departments inform people on matters such as disaster preparedness and response, emergency response tools. The BP Company itself has used the robotic submarines to close the valves on the open well. Some of the organizations above have also organized a group of volunteers to help in the clean up. It should be noted however, that this oil spill is overwhelming.
Thus, the effort of the volunteers and the robots continue to be challenged by the increasing oil spill. However, the effects are being mitigated by the closure of the oil rig. Currently, the pipe that exploded has been sealed to prevent further leakage of crude oil.
Due to the adverse effects of this oil spill, a more thorough inspection of off shore oil rigs should be performed. This will help reduce the number of such incidences. Another recommendation is to increase the use of robots to reduce the number of deaths should such an incident occur again. It is also suggested that we device ways by which we can use environmental friendly fuel. If we begin to utilize energy such as geothermal energy, less fossil fuel will be needed. This can help reduce such incidences.
Briney, A. (2010). Acid Rain, the Causes, History, and Effects of Acid Rain. Web.
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Chen, T. (2010). BP Disaster. Web.
The Huffington Post. Web.