Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Antique Whale Oil Provides Insights to Origin of Pre-Industrial Chemicals

16.10.2006
Samples from Whaleship Charles W. Morgan Helps Scientists Trace Sources

One of the last remaining New England whaling ships has provided unexpected insights into the origin of halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) that have similar chemical and physical properties as toxic PCBs and the pesticide DDT. HOCs are found everywhere and degrade slowly, but some are naturally produced and others are produced by humans.

While large scale industrial production of HOCs did not begin until the late 1920s, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts say naturally produced HOCs were bioaccumulating in marine mammals before major chemical companies like Monsanto, Dupont, and 3M were making HOCs for industrial uses. Their findings are reported in the online version of the journal Environmental Pollution.

In the past decade, scientists conducting routine analyses of animal and food samples began to discover unknown HOCs in their samples. Detective work led to their identities, but where these compounds were coming from has been a mystery. While some of these "unknown" compounds can be loosely traced to a possible industrial or natural source, the majority of these compounds have no known industrial or natural sources.

Emma Teuten and Christopher Reddy found their pre-industrial HOC samples in a most unlikely place: whale oil from the Charles W. Morgan, one of the last whaling ships operating during the 19th and early 20th century. Built in 1841 in New Bedford, Mass., the ship traveled the world looking for whales, often on voyages of three years or more. The ship is now preserved and on public display at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Conn. The researchers received the whale oil samples from the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Teuten and Reddy studied one sample of antique whale oil and found the HOCs in all the samples . The results provide further evidence that naturally produced HOCs were accumulating in marine mammals long before the human-produced varieties.

“What is most interesting to us is that we still find these ’natural’ compounds in recent samples from marine mammals, human breast milk, and commercially available fish in Canada,” said study co-author Christopher Reddy, an associate scientist in the WHOI Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department. With co-author Emma Teuten, now at the University of Plymouth, England but previously at WHOI, Reddy studied one of the previously unknown HOCs and determined that it was from a natural source, not industrial pollution. The approach was time consuming, taking more than six months of lab work to complete, and required more than ten pounds of whale blubber.

“Our main goal now is to identify who is making them, why, and how toxic they are,” said Teuten. “We suspect that many of these compounds were and are made by bacteria, plants, animals as chemical defense mechanisms.”

Reddy says the properties of these natural compounds he and Teuten found in the archived whale oil are similar to those of industrial HOCs. “Most industrial HOCs do degrade in the environment, although very slowly. With adequate regulations regarding the manufacture and release of the industrial versions, we expect in the future that natural HOCs, rather than industrial ones, will again be the only HOCs found in animal and human tissue.”

Reddy says these results should motivate science to consider the ecological role and bioactivity of these natural HOCs and how pre-exposure to these compounds prepared bacteria, plants, animals, and humans for industrial HOCs introduced during the past century. It is well known that organisms have evolved defensive mechanisms against chemicals in their environment, and until recently the sources of these chemicals were primarily natural. The importance of HOCs like those identified by Teuten and Reddy in the evolution of these defenses is not yet understood.

Industrial HOCs have been accumulating in the environment since the 1930’s. Production of PCBs began in 1929, DDT in the late 1930s. “Knowing that the natural compounds have been produced for much longer times, we can use the natural sources as tools in studying the industrial ones,” Teuten said. “For example, we may be able to use these natural HOCs as chemical tracers, just like dyes are used in medicine.”

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation, WHOI Ocean Life Institute, and The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>