Jean-Michel Cousteau, ocean explorer and son of the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, recently dove down into the oil-filled Gulf waters to take a look at what was going on beneath the surface. What he and his team saw made him question whether the chemical dispersants being used to break up the oil are actually hurting the water instead of helping it.
The dispersants break the oil into smaller particles, which Cousteau says are allowing the oil to sneak under booms set up along the coast. This poses a threat to marshlands and animals, especially as it works its way up through the food chain beginning with the smallest organisms. Cousteau predicts that the oil could affect the food chain, as well as people living along the coast, for decades to come.
Cousteau's divers were affected by the oil, as they reported skin irritations and breathing problems related to diving in polluted waters.
"To add another chemical to the ocean, I think has some long-term consequence which we are not even aware of what it's going to do. Personally, I think it was a mistake. We are much better equipped to capture oil at the surface provided that the weather allows that to happen." - Jean-Michel Cousteau, ocean explorer
1. Why is there oil spilling in the Gulf of Mexico?
2. What kinds of animals are threatened by oil spills? How are humans affected by oil spills?
1. What is the purpose of using chemical dispersants on oil? Do you think it's a good idea? Why or why not?
2. Imagine the food chain in the Gulf of Mexico. What animals do you think are involved in it? How could the oil work its way up the chain?
3. Mr. Cousteau said that he thinks he could still find people in Alaska who are affected by the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years later. How do you think they are still being affected?
4. What might be the long term effects of this oil spill?
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