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VENICE, Louisiana - As reddish crude oil rolls into Louisiana's coastal marshes several things are happening. Oil spill experts say the layer of oil suffocates plant and wildlife by coating the surface and blocking out oxygen.

The persistent toxin then seeps into the silt where fish and reptiles have laid eggs.

Oil is deadly to fish eggs and can cause birth defects in larger reptile eggs. Badly oiled birds have only a few days to live, lightly oiled ones can die slowly of hypothermia and oil will burn the skin of reptilesand preventtheir ability to absorb oxygen.

That is the mess Louisiana is left with in one of the most productive river deltas in the world.

Louisiana state officials are begging forpermission to constructprotective islandsalong the coast which could absorbthe oil and prevent storms from sending the oil farther inland, but with so much oil already in the marshes, it will be too lateto save someplants and animals.

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