April 21, 2012 According to Mother Jones, the second anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill may cause even more worries than the initial event. Now, oysters have been added to the list of natural victims affected by the gallons of crude oil swirling down America’s Southern coast (alongside “eyeless shrimp” and “dead dolphins”), leaving consumers afraid to eat the local fishermen’s catches.
Mother Jones reports :
A team of scientists led by Dr. Peter Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences says that oysters in the Gulf contain higher concentrations of the heavy metals found in crude oil now than they did before the spill. Using a method known—awesomely—as “laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry,” the scientists vaporized oyster shells and superheated them, causing different elements to radiate light at specific, known frequencies so they could be identified. They measured higher concentrations of vanadium, cobalt, and chromium—three heavy metals present in oil—in the oysters sampled after the spill. Even more worrisome, the team found that 89 percent of post-spill specimens displayed the signs of metaplasia, a condition in which tissues are transformed in response to stress. Oysters suffering from the condition often have trouble reproducing, which could have worrisome implications for oyster populations and the species further up the food chain that depend on them.
Scientists don’t yet know how trace metals like those found in the oysters move through food chains, or what effects they could have on high-level consumers, including people.