Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Marine Lab Tracks Pollutants in Dolphins and Beluga Whales

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 HCB).

Overall, PCBs were the pollutants found in the highest concentrations across the 14 sampling locations, followed by DDT, other pesticides and PBDEs, and HCB. Levels for POPs were statistically higher in dolphins living and feeding in waters near more urban and industrialized areas. The exceptions were the PCB levels recorded in dolphins living in waters near Brunswick, Ga., contaminated from a former factory that is now an Environmental Protection Agency “Superfund” cleanup site. These PCB levels were the highest ever observed in a group of living marine mammals.

In the second study, a NIST team analyzed the levels of 12 PFCs in livers harvested from 68 beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) that had lived and fed in two Alaskan locations: Cook Inlet in the urban southern part of the state and the Chukchi Sea in the remote northern part. The samples were collected from 1989 to 2006 by Native Alaskans during subsistence hunts and stored at NIST’s National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB). This was the first study to look at the concentration of PFCs in belugas from Alaska.

PFCs have been used as nonstick coatings and additives in a wide variety of goods including cookware, furniture fabrics, carpets, food packaging, fire-fighting foams and cosmetics. They are very stable, persist for a long time in the environment and are known to be toxic to the liver, reproductive organs and immune systems of laboratory mammals.

PFCs were detected in all of the beluga livers, with two compounds—perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctane sulfonamide (PFOSA)—found in more than half the samples. All but one of the PFC concentrations measured were significantly higher in the Cook Inlet belugas, an expected result given the nearby urban, industrialized area. The exception was PFOSA, where levels were higher amongst the Chukchi Sea whales. The researchers are unsure if this is the result of the pollutant being carried into the remote region by ocean currents, atmospheric transport or a combination of both. They also found that PFC concentrations in belugas increased significantly over the seven-year study period and were mostly higher in males.

The HML is a unique partnership of governmental and academic agencies including NIST, NOAA’s National Ocean Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. NIST maintains the NMMTB at the HML to provide archived samples for retrospective analysis of contaminants of emerging concern.

* J. Kucklick, L. Schwacke, R. Wells, A. Hohn, A. Guichard, J. Yordy, L. Hansen, E. Zolman, R. Wilson, J. Litz, D. Nowacek, T. Rowles, R. Pugh, B. Balmer, C. Sinclair and P. Rosel. Bottlenose dolphins as indicators of persistent organic pollutants in the western north Atlantic ocean and northern gulf of Mexico. Environmental Science & Technology. Published online Apr. 28, 2011.

** J.L. Reiner, S.G. O’Connell, A.J. Moors, J.R. Kucklick, P.R. Becker and J.M. Keller. Spatial and temporal trends of perfluorinated compounds in beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from Alaska. Environmental Science & Technology. Published online Feb. 10, 2011.

Michael E. Newman | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>