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Originally published August 5 2010

Natural oil-eating bacteria to clean up the Gulf?

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The Gulf oil disaster is arguably the worst man-made disaster to have occurred in the past 100 years. But Israeli researchers have come up with a potentially viable solution to help clean up the mess, and it is one they say has worked well before -- naturally-occurring, oil-eating bacteria.

Professors Eugene Rosenberg and Eliora Ron from Tel Aviv University's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology say that a unique, sea-borne, oil-eating bacteria can be used to help clean oil out of hard-to-reach places like under rocks and sand. The team has known about this bacteria since the 1970s, and it has already been used successfully in other applications.

"It's worked to clean up an oil spill on the coast of Haifa, Israel, so we've already got good evidence it could work in Florida too," said Professor Ron.

The team has been studying this bacteria for several decades, and has developed ways to grow it in labs and increase its oil-eating capacity. After initial oil cleanup efforts have been undertaken, these special bacteria can go in and clean out the rest, they say.

"We see sad pictures of birds covered in oil and people with good intentions cleaning bird wings," Ron explained. "But by the time the oil is on their wings, it's too late. Birds die because oil gets into their lungs."

By releasing the bacteria into areas that conventional cleanup methods are unable to reach, pockets of oil that would otherwise wreak havoc later on down the road are taken care of before they can cause further damage.

The same bacteria have successfully been used to clean oil out of oil tanker bilges.

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