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Deep Ocean Pollution Levels – Shocking

Posted on March 14, 2017 by Jeanne Roberts There have been 0 comments

You might think that the bottom of the ocean would be pristine wilderness. After all, it’s about 36,200 feet away. That’s 7,000 feet farther than the peak of Mount Everest!

You would be wrong. The ocean floor – or at least the part of it accessible via technology – is littered with manmade substances, notably polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The proof of this is in the bodies of deep-ocean dwellers called amphipods, a type of crustacean and one of the lowest members of the ocean food-web. In other words, “lunch” to larger species all the way up to whales.

Measuring PBDEs and PCBs

According to Dr. Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in England, whose findings originate from traps set in the Marianas Trench – the deepest point on earth – the PBDEs were at average concentrations.

The PCB levels, on the other hand, were extraordinary! When compared to the flesh of animals collected from one of the most polluted rivers in China – where PCB levels average 100 nanograms – the amphipods from the 7,841-foot level of the Marianas averaged 1,900 nanograms, or almost 20 times as high!

Polychlorinated biphenyls are one of mankind’s most toxic inventions. Finding them at the levels Dr. Jamieson has described is like finding out that the lead in your drinking water is 285 parts per billion (ppb) when the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended upper limit is a mere 15 ppb.

Sadly, amphipods and other deep-ocean dwellers don’t have an EPA to advocate for them. They just keep ingesting and absorbing mankind’s chemical excesses, which range from plastics to pharmaceuticals, and PCBs are among the most dangerous of persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, as outlined under the Stockholm Convention.

The Stockholm Convention is a global agreement to get rid of, or at least restrict, some 26 chemicals which are known to be harmful to human health in particular and the planet as a whole. These PCBs, used in old fluorescent lighting fixtures, some capacitors, old microscope and hydraulic oils, and building materials (elastic sealants, caulk, grout, paint, and flame retardants), were banned in 1979 but persist in the environment.

How Long Do PCBs Persist In the Environment?

“PCBs are still present within building construction materials in homes and schools and will remain so for centuries to come,” notes a Danish scientific report from 2015.

This is because, in aquatic environments especially, PCBs have a cumulative effect. For example, a copepod (i.e., an aquatic crustacean) may eat a particle of plastic, but the fish that eats that copepod will also eat a hundred more copepods. By the time the fish is big enough to be worth catching and eating, levels of PCBs  and other dioxins will be thousands of times higher than in they were in the ocean. When a human eats this fish, his or her “body burden” of toxic chemicals jumps exponentially.

Exposure starts in the womb. Scientists know that the fetus is most sensitive to dioxin exposure. Newborns and their rapidly developing organs and tissues, are almost as vulnerable. In children, this body burden can lead to diminished ability to think, reason, or even pay attention. Reduced thyroid hormone levels – essential to normal growth and development – may result in lower birth weight, a failure to thrive, smaller adult statures, and continuing mental and physical health effects – and this whole ball of wax gets handed down from generation to generation. In truth, we do not know how long PCB’s effects persist.

Preventing More PCBs

We can’t undo the past, but we can do our part to limit the spread of PCBs and other dioxins. For example, we know that some lesser-known PCBs (sometimes called congeners)  “…continue to be generated and released into the environment, not from intentionally created commercial products but as unintentional byproducts of manufacturing processes, including those used to make certain pigments used in dyes, inks, and paints.”

We can stop using printed plastic bags, food service items and the like, and buy or use only recycled, non-toxic, USA made, sustainable and compostable products. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a century to get healthy again!

This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Politically Green, The Water We Drink and was tagged with COMPOSTABLE, congener, dioxins, hormones, Marianas Trench, Mount Everest, NON-TOXIC, ocean floor, PBDE, PCB, persistent organic pollutants, POPs, RECYCLED-UPCYCLED, Stockholm Convention, SUSTAINABLE, thyroid


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