The explosion and fire on a BP-licensed oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) had huge environmental and economic effects, with millions of gallons of oil leaking into the water for more than five months. And baby bottlenose dolphins have begun washing up dead in record numbers on the shores of Alabama and Mississippi, most likely as a result of the BP Oil spill. 24 baby dolphins have washed up on the shores of the two states since the beginning of the year–10 times the normal rate, and the dolphin stranding season hasn’t even begun.

It also had significant psychological impact on people living in coastal communities, even in those areas that did not have direct oil exposure. And a new study has found that up to 500,000 tons of gaseous hydrocarbons were emitted into the deep ocean during the BP spill. Such a large gas discharge, which generated concentrations 75,000 times the norm, could result in small-scale zones of “extensive and persistent depletion of oxygen” (leading to massive fish kills) as microbial processes degrade the gaseous hydrocarbons. Researcher Samantha Joye says, "It’s like searching for a needle in the haystack.

We may never know what happened to all of that gas." Researcher Ira Leifer says, "Deepwater Horizon underscored how ill-prepared the nation is to respond to future accidents. As a nation, we need to hear this deep-sea Sputnik wake-up call."

It’s a wake-up call for psychologists as well: Researcher Lynn Grattan says, "We found that people living in communities with and without direct oil exposure had similar levels of psychological distress. People in both groups showed clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety. Also, where compared to people whose income was unaffected by the disaster, people with spill-related income loss in both groups had higher rates of depression, were less resilient and were more likely to cope using ‘behavioral disengagement,’ which involves just ‘giving up’ trying to deal the problem."

On the CNN News website, Vivian Kuo quotes marine expert Moby Solangi as saying, "I’ve worked with marine mammals for 30 years, and this is the first time we’ve seen such a high number of calves. It’s alarming. Whatever it is, I hope it is just an anomaly. It certainly has connotations on reproduction and the population. Unfortunately, I think this is not the end of what we will be seeing."

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