US government scientists have for the first time connected the BP oil disaster to dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, in a study finding direct evidence of toxic exposure.
The study, led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other health effects among dolphins in an area heavily oiled during the BP spill.
The diseases found in the dolphins at Barataria Bay in Louisiana – though rare – were consistent with exposure to oil, the scientists said.
"Many disease conditions observed in Barataria Bay dolphins are uncommon but consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity," the scientists said.
Half of the dolphins were given a guarded prognosis, and 17% were expected to die of the disease, the researchers found.
"I've never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals – and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities," Lori Schwake, the study's lead author, said in a statement.