Oil Is Oil, Even In The Arctic | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: September 21, 2011

Oil Is Oil, Even In The Arctic

Oil Toxicity: Arctic marine species are no more sensitive to crude oil than temperate species are
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: oil pollution, crude oil, petroleum, Arctic Ocean, toxicity, risk assessment
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ARCTIC ANIMALS
When exposed to oil, polar marine animals such as this sea urchin are as likely to die as their temperate-water cousins.
Credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Catriona Day
20110915lnj1-strongylocentrotus-droebachiensis
 
ARCTIC ANIMALS
When exposed to oil, polar marine animals such as this sea urchin are as likely to die as their temperate-water cousins.
Credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Catriona Day

As oil companies eye the rich petroleum reserves beneath the Arctic Ocean, scientists worry about the impact of spills on the ocean’s delicate ecosystem. Many scientists have guessed that polar marine species, with their slow metabolism and high fat content, are more sensitive to toxic petroleum compounds than temperate species are. However, a new study finds that polar species respond to oil in much the same way as their temperate cousins do (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es202296a).

The researchers combed through data from 14 studies and three government databases that documented oil’s toxic effects on 28 polar and temperate species such as shrimp and fish. Overall, polar and temperate species were just as likely to die when exposed to fixed concentrations of three petroleum compounds.

For assessing risk in the Arctic, says Jan Hendriks, an author of the study and an ecotoxicologist at Radboud University, in the Netherlands, “We might not need to do large-scale testing of Arctic species because we can use data that are already available for temperate species”. However, because the study only looked at deaths from exposure to oil, more tests should determine whether oil disrupts Arctic species’ growth and reproduction to the same extent as it does for temperate species, he says.

 
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