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Scientists: Gulf not clear of oil threat, despite government findings

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Despite government assurances that Gulf seafood is safe and oil is disappearing from the water, three new reports show the oil remains and presents a threat to marine life.

University of Georgia researchers calculate that 70-79 percent of the oil that flowed into the water from the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well continues to taint the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, a commentary published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that invertebrates like oysters, shrimp and crabs have difficulty clearing their systems of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a component of the oil they may absorb.

According to that study, large vertebrates like tuna, mackerel and swordfish may show longer-term effects from mercury, from the oil working its way up the food chain to accumulate in predators people like to eat.

University of South Florida scientists returned Monday from a cruise in search of subsurface oil. Their findings are expected to show that oil from the Deepwater Horizon well has been found 40 miles from the Panhandle, in seafloor sediments of the DeSoto Canyon, according to CNN.


During the cruise, USF researchers also tested the toxicity of oil to phytoplankton. The research found that the tiny creatures at the base of the food chain are vulnerable to oil's toxic effects, and some may even be mistaking pure oil for food.

All three reports come in stark contrast to findings earlier this month from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies, which drew more upbeat conclusions.

On Aug. 4 a report issued by multiple federal agencies under the government's National Incident Command reported: "The vast majority of the oil from the BP oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed, much of which is in the process of being degraded."

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