A new study shows that the tragic 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has left dolphins in Barataria Bay much more sickly than originally thought. After studying 32 dolphins that live in the Louisiana waters, scientists found many of them in poor condition due to the spill’s lasting effects. The spill has also been cited as a contributing factor to the unusually high mortality rate of dolphins since 2010.

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Many factors the dolphins studied faced could contribute to their poor health, including existing environmental conditions, and the presence of PCBs, DDT and other pesticides in the Gulf waters. These in addition to oil exposure are thought to be the cause of the dolphins’ severe respiratory issues, which have made them more sickly than usual. Of the 32 dolphins examined, 29 received ultrasound exams, showing most to be in guarded condition; 17 percent are not expected to live due to lung damage.

But one of the main, and surprising, issues with the bottle nosed dolphins studied includes low levels of adrenal stress-response hormones, an unusual condition which scientists blame on the oil spill. BP Oil has challenged the study, claiming that the dolphins’ poor health could be attributed to preexisting conditions in the Gulf -like contaminants and algae blooms, or natural diseases. A study of dolphins in a bay in Sarasota, which contains similar levels of contaminants but not oil, suggests otherwise, as they were found to be five times healthier than the Barataria dolphins exposed to the oil spill.

BP has announced it has discovered more oil 300 miles from New Orleans. Whether they will begin a drilling project or not remains to be seen.

Via Huffington Post

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