It was long known that oil spills can cause serious damage to the biodiversity in seas and oceans, and a new study has revealed that oil spills can cause serious damage to the heart of fishes. The chemicals in oil can cause disruptions in the movement of potassium through the heart thereby affecting the fish.
“The ability of a heart cell to beat,” explained Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences at Stanford University, “depends on its capacity to move essential ions like potassium and calcium into and out of the cells quickly. This dynamic process, which is common to all vertebrates, is called ‘excitation-contraction coupling.’ We have discovered that crude oil interferes with this vital signalling process essential for our heart cells to function properly.”
For the study, scientists used heart tissue from Tuna fish. The chemical particularly polyaromatic hydrocarbons can block transfer of ionic pathways seriously impairing heart function.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was perhaps the latest in the serious of oil spill accidents that resulted in 4 million barrels of crude oil being released into the Gulf of Mexico.