U.S. oil spill waters contain carcinogens often linked to oil spills
University researchers said on Thursday they recently found alarming levels of cancer-causing toxins in an area of the Gulf of Mexico affected by BP's oil spill, raising the specter of long-lasting health concerns.
Oregon State University (OSU) researchers found sharply heightened levels of chemicals including carcinogens in the waters off the coast of Louisiana in August, the last sampling date, even after BP successfully capped its runaway Gulf well in mid-July.
Near Grand Isle, Louisiana, the team discovered that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- which include carcinogens and chemicals that pose various risks to human health -- remained at levels 40 times higher than before the area was affected by the oil spill.
The compounds may enter the food chain through organisms like plankton or fish, a researcher said.
"In a natural environment a 40-fold increase is huge," said Oregon State toxicologist Kim Anderson, who led the research. "We don't usually see that at other contamination sites."
The PAH chemicals, which are often linked to oil spills, are most concentrated in the area near the Louisiana Coast, but levels have also jumped 2 to 3 fold in other spill-affected areas off Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, Anderson said.
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