Now, arsenic in Gulf of Mexico

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About 400 millions of litres of oil has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico since April, and along with it a large amount of arsenic. The toxic chemical is present in fossil fuel. Arsenic also occurs naturally in the ocean water. But seafloor sediments cleanse it by bonding with arsenic and subsequently burying it under new layers of sediments.

This keeps the levels of naturally occurring arsenic low. Researchers from the Imperial College London have discovered oil spills can clog up the sediments, preventing them from bonding with arsenic. This causes arsenic levels in seawater to rise, contaminate the marine ecosystem and eventually enter the food chain.


Down To Earth, July 2010