Oil drilling gives cancer risk to North Sea fish, Norwegian study suggests
Reuters Science Headlines
20th November 2003
OSLO (Reuters) - Pollution from the oil platforms in the North Sea may be raising risks of cancer in fish, a Norwegian-led study showed on Thursday.
"Overall chemical contamination from the oil industry in the North Sea is very low, but in some fish there is a long-term effect on DNA that might in the worst case cause cancer," said Jarle Klungsoyr of Norway's Institute of Marine Research.
Klungsoyr, who led the survey of pollution with other Norwegian groups and Stockholm University, told Reuters that the experiments indicated that some oil-related chemicals might disrupt the DNA genetic makeup of cells.
He said any cancer risk would not be transferred to people or other fish if eaten. The scientists analyzed samples of cod, haddock, coalfish and herring from three different areas caught in 2002. "The fish is safe to eat," he said.
The WWF environmental group said that Norway should tighten emissions standards and ban future exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic Barents Sea, one of the world's main spawning grounds.
"Several types of fish, among them North Sea cod, are already severely depleted because of overfishing and other pollution," said Rasmus Hansson, general secretary of WWF Norway.
The WWF said the data showed that fish might be able to transfer genetic defects to their offspring.
But Klungsoyr said: "The chances of that are close to zero." He said that risks of genetic disturbances seemed to stem from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a group of chemicals formed from incomplete burning of oil, gas or other organic substances.
Norwegian oil and gas group Norsk Hydro said fish stocks were not under threat from the offshore industry.
It said it had axed emissions of pollution into the sea in recent years but conceded that a Norwegian goal of zero emissions from 2005 would be hard to meet.
Genetic effects "have been found in laboratory experiments, but not around the installations on the Norwegian shelf. Even though there is a risk of damage to some individuals, we believe that emissions are not so large as to affect the whole stock," it said.
And Norsk Hydro said that Norway's oil industry accounted for just two percent of oil spilled in the North Sea. It said rivers brought in 59 percent of the total, followed by oil activities in other nations with 20 percent and shipping with seven percent.