Poison And Pollution
Now Found In Deep
Sea Sperm Whales
LONDON (REUTERS) - Dutch scientists said on Wednesday they had found evidence that potentially harmful chemicals have reached deep sea waters, posing a long-term threat to whales and other ocean life.
Writing in Nature magazine, they said the compounds were similar in their behavior to well-known environmentally harmful chemicals such as PCBs and DDT.
But far from being banned, the compounds are widely used as flame retardants and are found in relatively high concentrations in a wide range of products including cars, computers, textiles and televisions.
Jacob de Boer and Peter Wester said they found traces of the flame retardants -- polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) -- in sperm whales and other marine animals stranded on the Dutch coast.
"An environmental problem may be on the way," de Boer and Wester wrote.
Because sperm whales normally stay and feed in depths of 400-1,200 yards, they said the presence of the compounds indicated they had reached the depths of the oceans.
"The levels are not as high yet as for PCBs, but we think that these compounds should be banned because they are very similar to PCBs.
"They are still being produced and being used every day in increasing amounts," de Boer, from the Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research, told Reuters.
PBBs and PBDEs can affect the reproductive system and the regulation of thyroid and steroid hormones.
"Of course those effects only occur at a certain level ... But based on the ongoing production, you could easily predict that concentrations will go up," de Boer said.

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