Lab looking at long term effects of oil dispersants

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - With untold amounts of oil, dispersants and chemicals in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists worry the Coastal Crisis will impact gulf life for years to come.  However, the big questions remains: Just how will it affect the gulf, the food chain and the seafood?

"I think the concern is that we don't know very well what the effect is going to be," said Dr. Joe Griffith of the USM Gulf Coast Research Lab.

A team of researchers at the Gulf Coast Research Lab are trying to answer those questions, by exposing the fish, shrimp and crab to different mixes of oil and dispersant at various stages of life.  Then, they will watch for specific changes.

"Are the fish breeding? Are they reproducing? Are the juveniles surviving well? Are they moving around the way they are suppose to? That tells us if there is going to be an ecological scale effect," said Griffith.

The team will especially look at the effects of dispersed oil. According to Griffith, because dispersed oil sinks, it is more difficult to find and spreads more easily. Because of this, it can potentially affect more organisms.

Griffith and his team will focus on changes at the cellular level as a basis for seeing the big picture.

"We're looking for effects at a very small scale, but we're trying to see, do these changes make a difference on a large scale?" said Griffith.

While the research could give needed answers, it will also take time. Griffith said it will be nearly six months before the research is published, and that solid science can't be rushed.

"We're going to have to wait. We'll find out what it is, and when we're certain of what it is, we'll let everybody know. But nobody is served by having information in the public that later turns out to be inaccurate."

The lab's findings will be made available to the public.  You can also post any questions to scientists online.

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