An oil spill is the release of liquid petroleum into the environment as a result of human carelessness. The term often refers to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters. Spills take months or even years to clean up. Oil spills are highly toxic to fish, birds, animals, and human populations.
Marine mammals and seabirds are severely affected by spills as the oil penetrates the structure of fur and plumage, reducing the natural insulating ability and leading to death by hypothermia. Ingestion of the oil also causes dehydration and impaired digestion.
Find out more about oil spills from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
See Frequently Asked Questions about oil spills at Coastal.ca.gov.