There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:
In general, after an oil spill, cleaned birds suffer higher than average mortality rates. Less than 1 percent survive. Scientists found that cleaning oil off a bird could cause as much injury as the oil itself. The majority of brown pelicans cleaned and released after an oil spill in California never mated again and died. After a 2002 oil spill in Spain, scientists and volunteers cleaned thousands of birds; the majority died within a week. In one horrific scientific experiment out of Canada, researchers intentionally spilled oil into the Beaufort Sea to help guide a decision about whether or not to drill for oil there. The local polar bears died of kidney failure, and so did the birds. The researchers failed to contain the oil. The project concluded that cleaning up oil spills was largely ineffective. Canada still permitted drilling the Beaufort Sea.
Still, all this scrubbing serves a purpose. It is oil spill response theater, with the message that these accidents are fine because they can be cleaned up. Pretending that we can clean up an oil spill is one way that oil companies make the risk of an oil spill feel less dire.