When I was a newspaper reporter in the early 2000s, one of the stories I covered was about a charity that brought children from the area around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor to the United States for treatment for thyroid cancer. Some of the children affected by the disaster were not even born at the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
The thing about environmental disasters is that they have a way of making their impacts felt in insidious, unpredictable ways – often far into the future.
Two news stories out of the Gulf of Mexico show this clearly. First, Alabama state officials have discovered oil in the seabed off the Alabama coast, suggesting that the tar balls appearing on Gulf beaches are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long-lasting impacts of oil on the region. Second, oil has popped up in the larvae of blue crabs and fiddler crabs off the Gulf Coast – giving the oil now leaking into the Gulf a direct entry point into the food chain, where it can be consumed by other fish and birds, and likely having an impact far from the Gulf of Mexico.
Expect these kinds of stories to continue for years, and possibly decades, as scientists catch up with the many ways that oil from this spill is degrading the environment and affecting the health of wildlife and humans.
This story is just beginning.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.