Deadly Pesticides Found Inside Marine Mammals

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Deadly Pesticides Found Inside Marine Mammals

May 2009

Marine mammals are being increasingly exposed to a deadly brew of pesticides and other poisons, an extensive study of their brains has found.

The pesticides found inside the brains of seals, dolphins, porpoises and other cetaceans included DDTs and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). There were poisons like brominated flame retardants as well.

Researcher Eric Montie measured a variety of different chemicals in animal tissues that had not been previously explored.

He analysed both the cerebrospinal fluid and the grey matter of the cerebellum in 11 cetaceans and one gray seal stranded near Cape Cod.

His looked for many of the chemicals that environmental watchdog groups call the dirty dozen, a collection of particularly ubiquitous pesticides that were banned in the 1970s because of their hazards to human health. DDT PCBs disrupt the thyroid hormone system.

Montie conducted the research as a student in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution-MIT Joint Graduate Program in Oceanography and Ocean Engineering and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of  Environmental Pollution.

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