Bottlenose dolphins* and beluga whales**, two marine species at or near the top of their respective food webs, accumulate more chemical pollutants in their bodies when they live and feed in waters near urbanized areas, according to scientists working at the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML), a government-university collaboration in Charleston, S.C.
In papers recently published online by the journal Environmental Science & Technology, one research team looked at the levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in male dolphins along the U.S. East and Gulf of Mexico coasts and Bermuda, while the other group examined the levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in beluga whales at two Alaskan locations. Data gathered in both studies are expected to serve as baseline measurements for future research to define the health effects and impacts of these pollutants on the two species.
POPs are a large group of man-made chemicals that, as their name indicates, persist in the environment. They can spread globally through air and water, accumulate in the food chain, and may have carcinogenic, neurodevelopmental, immune or endrocrine effects on both wildlife and humans. To study POP concentrations in male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Duke University Marine Laboratory, Florida State University and the Chicago Zoological Society teamed up to collect and examine blubber biopsy samples from 2000 to 2007 at eight locations along the U.S. East coast (from New Jersey to Eastern Florida), five sites in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off Bermuda. The researchers analyzed the dolphin blubber for POPs that were once used as insecticides (such as DDT), insulating fluids (polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs), flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs) and a fungicide (hexachlorobenzene, or
|Contact: Michael E. Newman|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)