CORRESPONDENCE

Brazil’s mystery oil spill: an ongoing social disaster

The mystery crude-oil spill that struck Brazil from late August last year continues to severely affect thousands of kilometres of the country’s northeastern coastline. Remediation and containment measures are being hampered because the source and timing of the spill are still unclear. The consequences of this environmental and societal disaster could last for decades.

Besides the spill’s catastrophic impact on the region’s marine biodiversity (more than 40 of Brazil’s Marine Protected Areas have been hit), it affects the livelihoods and food security of millions of coastal residents. In the region of Pernambuco, for example, sales of fish and shellfish have plummeted by around 80% (M. E. de Araújo et al. Cad. Saúde Públ. http://doi.org/dkq7; 2020).

The decline in sales of fish and seafood in the region is exacerbated by public confusion over the authorities’ conflicting advice on safe eating habits. The biological accumulation of toxins in food animals is likely to pose a long-term risk to human health.

Nature 578, 37 (2020)

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