Studies conducted on the effect of the 2010 BP Deepwater explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on the environment have shown that traces of the oil spill were found in the zooplankton, presenting a hazard for the gulf food chain and possibly human health.
Zooplankton are small organisms that drift through the ocean and are used as food by shrimp and baby fish. The oil contaminants are carried into the food chain through the zooplankton. Studies have confirmed that oil was still entering the food chain after the blown-out well was capped.
"Traces of oil in the zooplankton prove that they had contact with the oil and the likelihood that oil compounds may be working their way up the food chain," said Dr. Michael Roman of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, according to Science Daily.
UPI.com reported that oil from BP’s world record spill was still being found in some zooplankton as late as a month after the well was capped, according to the research.
The first health concerns after the spill were about skin contact with the oil, or inhaling its chemical compounds that can cause cancer. Dr. Gina Solomon of the National Resources Defense Council told Businessweek in 2010, "The risks include acute health effects from the air pollution from the oil itself. It also includes health effects from burning the oil and it also includes contamination of the food chain which can result in long-term health concerns."
After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska back in 1989, 11,000 clean-up workers were estimated to have made 5,600 visits to health clinics for upper respiratory ailments. The solvent used in cleaning that spill was limonene, which can cause asthma and skin inflammation.
According to Digital Journal, contaminants in the spilled oil that can cause health risks to humans through the food chain include mercury, lead and copper.