Do you realize how much oil you use on a daily basis? Have you ever wondered where it comes from? It’s been estimated that every person in the United States uses 1.5 gallons of oil per day, and we consumed a total of 7.3 billion barrels of oil in 2017. All of that oil has to come from somewhere, and with the constant demand, deep-shore oil rigs have come to be the norm. Take Deepwater Horizon for example, which is in the Gulf of Mexico and goes 5000 feet down into the ocean. In 2010, the Deepwater rig exploded, killing 11 people, and the subsequent oil spill took 87 days before it was finally stopped. By the end, 170 million gallons of crude oil had leaked into the ocean.
The spill was deemed the “worst environmental disaster America has ever faced” by President Obama. It’s been estimated that thousands of marine mammals and over one million seabirds died as a result. Oil spills are very hard to clean up and are extremely costly. Large masses of oil accumulate on the surface of the water after an oil spill called oil slicks. If these reach coastlines, they can cause major environmental problems. To break down these oil slicks, dispersants are used, which work by breaking up the slicks and dispersing the oil throughout the water. This helps aid a faster breakdown of the oil by microorganisms. These dispersants have been linked to health effects, including respiratory complaints and skin irritation, and little is known about their long term effects.
There really are no easy answers to these problems. As soon as an oil spill occurs, dramatic and long-lasting effects occur to the environment, and human health is directly and indirectly affected. Deep offshore oil drilling is only increasing, and these spills will continue to happen.
Luckily, there are things that you can do as a consumer of oil that can make a difference. One of the best ways is to reduce your own oil consumption. For example, you could use public transportation or carpooling instead of a personal automobile. Another way to reduce your oil consumption is to be conscious of the merchandise you purchase. Don’t buy products made of nylon and try to limit the amount of plastic you use, and use recycled products when possible. By being a smart consumer and reducing the amount of oil that you use on a daily basis, you can reduce the demand for offshore drilling and help promote a healthier environment.
Disclosure: this film was part of a project was conducted for the Colorado School of Public Health course EHOH 6614, Fall 2019. Group 20.
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