Environmental Health News —
When a seabird is found with a belly full of plastic bags, or a turtle is strangled by six-pack rings, it’s easy to see how our trash turns deadly when it enters the oceans.
It’s much harder to track the effects of the tens of thousands of chemicals that are dumped in the ocean every day, through sewage, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste—most of which have unknown effects on wild ecosystems. What we do know is that the bodies of marine animals act like magnets for these toxics, which accumulate in their fat and are amplified up the food chain.
When dolphins and whales strand on the beach, response teams perform necropsies to determine the cause of death, but these tests don’t normally include toxicological assessments. In a new study, published last week in Frontiers in Marine Science, blubber and liver samples from 83 dolphins and whales stranded on Florida and North Carolina beaches from 2012 to 2018 were screened for a variety of chemical pollutants. The researchers found a variety of contamination including some of the highest mercury and arsenic levels ever recorded in stranded dolphins and whales.