Abridged summary: In general, petroleum negatively affects living organisms through physical contact, toxic action, and habitat modification, whereas individual PAHs have toxic effects. Partially metabolized PAHs can induce genetic damage and developmental abnormalities and can induce cancerous and noncancerous tumors. Evidence linking environmental concentrations of PAHs to the induction of cancer in wild animals is limited. Although concentrations of individual PAHs in aquatic environments are usually much lower than concentrations that are acutely toxic to aquatic organisms, sublethal effects can be produced. Population changes caused by petroleum spills are easier to document for macrophytes and animals with limited mobility than for mobile animals (fish, birds, mammals, reptiles). Effects of spills on populations of mobile species have been difficult to determine beyond immediate losses in local populations.
Additional publication details
Petroleum and individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons