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Oil is a Toxin

Oil pollution is toxic

Photo Credit: Common Good Productions

Oil is a toxin – and oil pollution is a serious threat to the marine environment.

Oil, like natural gas, is a naturally occurring fossil fuel.

It comes from the decayed remains of tiny aquatic plants and animals that lived in the Earth’s ancient oceans million of years ago. When these organisms died, they floated to the bottom of the sea and were buried under layers of sediment and rock. Over eons, heat and pressure transformed these organic remains into a dark, heavy liquid that we now call crude oil.

Crude oil is a primary source of energy for the modern global economy.

Crude oil is a complex mixture of chemical compounds, but it is mostly made up of three elements: carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

Alert! The United States consumed nearly 700 billion barrels of crude oil in 2009 – which comes out to nearly 19 million barrels of oil each day.

Unfortunately, carbon and hydrogen sometimes combine into toxic compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are harmful to living organisms.

PAH’s usually comprise from 0.2 percent to more than 7 percent of the total volume of crude oil.

Exposure to even small amounts of PAHs have been found to cause cancers in adult fish and can kill or severely damage developing fish embryos.

Learn more about the health impact of oil on marine life.

Learn more about how oil enters the marine environment.