* Toxicologists found "huge increase" in chemicals
* Waters near Louisiana are most affected
* Congressman wants probe into Federal oil spill report
By Joshua Schneyer
NEW YORK, Sept 30 University researchers said
on Thursday they recently found alarming levels of
cancer-causing toxins in an area of the Gulf of Mexico affected
by BP's (BP.L) oil spill, raising the specter of long-lasting
Oregon State University (OSU) researchers found sharply
heightened levels of chemicals including carcinogens in the
waters off the coast of Louisiana in August, the last sampling
date, even after BP successfully capped its runaway Gulf well
Near Grand Isle, Louisiana, the team discovered that
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- which include
carcinogens and chemicals that pose various risks to human
health -- remained at levels 40 times higher than before the
area was affected by the oil spill.
The compounds may enter the food chain through organisms
like plankton or fish, a researcher said.
"In a natural environment a 40-fold increase is huge," said
Oregon State toxicologist Kim Anderson, who led the research.
"We don't usually see that at other contamination sites."
The PAH chemicals, which are often linked to oil spills,
are most concentrated in the area near the Louisiana Coast, but
levels have also jumped 2 to 3 fold in other spill-affected
areas off Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, Anderson said.
As of last month, PAH levels remained near those discovered
while the oil spill was still flowing heavily, Anderson said.
The team will continue to sample for chemicals in months to
Although BP has sealed its well, experts are still
cataloging the environmental and health hazards left in the
wake of the spill. Scores of research teams, including
Anderson's, are working with Federal Superfund grants to
measure how the spill affected the environment.
Also on Thursday, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva told
Reuters he would press for a congressional investigation into
whether estimates of the oil spill volume and its related
environmental risks were misrepresented in a federal report
from early August.
BP's ill-fated Macondo well spilled a total of up to 4.9
million barrels before it was capped, the report said. But it
also suggested that most of the oil had been dispersed
naturally or removed by clean-up efforts at the time.
Grijalva, who chairs a subcommittee that oversees some
wetlands damaged by the spill, said it was unclear whether the
Federal report was peer-reviewed and whether its estimates
"I don't want to let BP off the hook, and my suspicion is
that the numbers may be wrong and that the oil is still a
danger," Grijalva said in an interview.
BP representatives were not immediately available for
(Editing by David Gregorio)