The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency, has awarded Auburn University researchers $700,000...
Ming-Kuo Lee and James Saunders of the College of Sciences and Mathematics are working with Alison Keimowitz from Vassar College to determine the effects of oil on arsenic crystals and mercury in the coastal wetlands.
“If you have a high influx of oil, it can stimulate the activities of natural bacteria,” Lee said. “These activities can potentially release the toxic metals.”
Active bacteria consume oxygen in the water, and in this environment, solid arsenic can be dissolved into the wetlands.
It could then be absorbed by bacteria and plankton and transferred up the food chain, increasing in concentration until the toxins pose serious health risks for humans.
Auburn University researchers receive funds to investigate effects of oil spill, Auburn Plainsman, September 9, 2010: