Oil spills off the northeast coast of Brazil are characterized as the largest environmental disaster on the country's coast. Started in August 2019, the oil has been spreading and expanding the contaminated area. As of January 8, 2020, 998 locations in 120 municipalities and nine states in Northeast Brazil were accounted for, according to the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA). It is estimated that around 2,000 tons of oil have been collected from the beaches.
The investigation started when there was a significant amount of oil reaching the Brazilian beaches. Since then, several hypotheses have been created about the origin of the oil and its constitution. No country or company was blamed for contamination of the northeastern coast. Meanwhile, the Brazilian government, after 1 month of the first appearance of oil on beaches, took measures such as visits to affected sites and issued contradictory information regarding the risk of poisoning associated with contact with the oil, contradicting researchers and other sources regarding potential for environmental contamination of this disaster.
While government measures were unsuccessful in containing oil, people from affected locations and volunteers from various parts of the country were responsible for manually removing oil from sand and seawater. However, a large proportion of these volunteers do not use PPE and tools that could reduce the risk of contamination. In this regard, several research institutions have been alerting to these risks and mapping the locations affected, as well as organizing volunteer work and donating PPE to those who were removing the oil.
Among the repercussions of this disaster is the economic factor, because in the Northeast region of Brazil fishing and tourism are some of the main income generators for the coastal population. This disturbance to the economy of the affected places is due to the high probability of contamination of the waters and of all beings that live in them. Through the mechanism of trophic magnification toxicity is increasing according to the food chain and consumers are at the top of it. These risks culminate in fewer people enjoying the beaches and lower profitability of the traditional activities of these locations. The economic factor is also within the health factor due to the oil spill on the Brazilian coast. Thus, people who come into contact with the oil in these waters are at risk for signs and symptoms of intoxication. If there is chronicity in this contamination there is a risk of developing dysfunctions such as anemia, cancer and several other serious disorders. In this sense, the costs to the country's health system are incalculable given that there is no dimension of the degree of contamination that this population is immersed.
Uncertainty of origin coupled with not sufficiently effective combat are the main factors supporting a growing advance in the contamination of waters, animals, and other beings that inhabit the northeastern coast of Brazil contributing to great environmental damage. After some months, the origin of the oil spill was seemingly identified   .