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New findings on emerging contaminants
Date:2/16/2008

Boston, Mass.American and Canadian scientists are finding that out of sight, out of mind can no longer be the approach we take to the chemicals in our waters. Substances that we use everyday are turning up in our lakes, rivers and ocean, where they can impact aquatic life and possibly ourselves.

Derek Muir of Environment Canada and colleagues have determined that of the 30,000 or so chemicals used commercially in the United States and Canada, about 400 resist breaking down in the environment and can accumulate in fish and wildlife. These researchers estimate that of this 400, only 4 percent are routinely analyzed and about 75 percent have not been studied. These emerging chemical contaminants, or ECCs, are not necessarily all new substances. But with improved detection technologies, their unexpected potential impacts on the environment and human health are just now coming to light.

At a press conference at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, February 16, a panel of researchers will discuss their current findings about how ECCs are affecting aquatic environments and may be coming back to haunt us in unanticipated ways.

John Incardona and Nathaniel Scholz at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health found that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) left in Pacific waters after the Exxon Valdez oil spill caused heart defects in herring and pink salmon embryos. PAHs from various sources, including oil spills and urban runoff, remain a threat to fish in coastal areas. The scientists think these chemicals can cause the hearts of fish embryos to beat slower and slower, resulting in heart deformities and a buildup of fluid around the hearts. During the last six years, they tested the effects of PAHs on zebrafish, which medical researchers have
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Contact: Matthew Wright
mwright@seaweb.org
617-835-9395
SeaWeb
Source:Eurekalert

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