Oil spills are a form of pollution that happens when crude oil or refined oil is accidentally released into the environment, usually by humans. There are mainly two different types of oil spills – those that happen on land, and those that happen in water. Both types can cause water pollution, land pollution and air pollution. Water, or marine, oil spills are more difficult to contain and recover from. Marine spills can contaminate coastal soil and drinking water and kill or seriously harm area wildlife.
When an oil spill happens, it is very important that the clean-up process begins as quickly as possible, in order to keep as much damage as possible from occurring. Containing the oil by using skimmers, which collect the oil into tanks is one way to attack the spill. Breaking down the oil using dispersants or biological agents, can be used in some, but not all, oil spills. However, if there is no threat of pollution to coastal areas or to wildlife, the oil may be allowed to break down naturally.
Oil spills can have a tragic effect on wildlife. If an animal is covered in oil, it may try to clean itself, ingesting the harmful oil. Some animals are made vulnerable to the harsh elements by losing their water repellency or insulation abilities. Others may be blinded by the oil, making them defenseless against predators. If an oil spill occurs, specialists and veterinarians jump into action to help clean, rehabilitate and return the animals to the environment.