A toxic chemical painted on the bottom of large vessels to protect against barnacles may cause hearing difficulties in whales and other mammals, according to a study by Yale researchers published in the Biophysical Journal.
The chemical tributyltin oxide (TBT) affects the mechanical activity of the outer hair cells, which modulate and boost incoming sound energy to the inner hair cells, according to senior author Joseph Santos-Sacchi, professor of surgery and neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine.
TBT is known to damage the immune system and the hormonal system of marine mammals, "but this is the first time it has been demonstrated that TBT could be working directly on the auditory system," said Santos-Sacchi. Mammals are the only group of animals that have outer hair cells.
Jacqueline Weaver | EurekAlert!
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