Can Oil Spills Make You Fat?

A study published by the faculty of Medical University of South Carolina indicates that oil spills and the chemicals used to clean up those spills may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.

About six years ago, in April 2010 an explosion in Deepwater Horizon caused the release of over 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In response, about 2 million gallons of dispersant was used to emulsify the released oil with the hope of hastening oil biodegradation and preventing the spilled oil from reaching fragile habitats onshore.

Both the oil and the dispersant used to cleanup the spill are implicated as potential endocrine and metabolic disruptors. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can cause developmental and reproductive abnormalities by disrupting hormonal balance. Epidemiological studies link human exposure to EDCs with obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Obesity is a major global health problem that contributes to a variety of diseases, including hypertension and cancer in addition to type 2 diabetes. Historically obesity in individuals was attributed to an imbalance in food eaten versus energy expended. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise and other lifestyle were considered the drivers of the obesity epidemic.

Recent evidence now suggests that certain environmental agents known as “obesogens” may also significantly contribute to obesity, especially in children. Studies using cell cultures and animal models indicate obesogenic compounds appear to alter metabolism and fat cell production.

The study published by the faculty of Medical University of South Carolina found that dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS), the principal component of the dispersant used for oil remediation, is a “likely obesogen.”

The study should serve as warning. In addition to being used as a dispersant in oil spills, the chemical is also used —> Read More