Tuesday, February 7, 2023

They find toxic toilet paper residues and ‘eternal chemicals’ in orcas

Canadian researchers Emerging and long-lived contaminants identified in orcas, These compounds appear in everyday human products and may affect the health of endangered cheetahs. Their discovery in apex predators also indicates that they are a threat to the entire food chain.

Various chemical contaminants appear in the tissues of killer whales, according to a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in that Canadian province. The team analyzed six transient orcas stranded on shores between 2006 and 2018 and six southern residents – an endangered population -.

The main compound identified (46 percent of the total) is 4-nonylphenol, or 4NP, which is used in the production of toilet paper. This substance is listed as toxic in Canada. It is an “emerging pollutant”, potentially dangerous but not well studied and therefore not regulated.

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, is the first to find 4NP in killer whales. Kiah Lee, UBC student and first author of the paper, acknowledges to SINC that research on this compound still needs progress: “Developing knowledge about 4NP is essential to understanding the prevalence and effects of this contaminant in orcas.” Can go”.

Co-author Juan Jose Alva, a researcher at the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries (IOF), highlighted that 4NP may interact with the nervous system and affect cognitive function: “This inquiry is a wake-up call. Southern resident orcas are an endangered population and pollutants may be contributing to their decline. We can’t wait to protect this species.”For his part, Lee stressed that the disappearance of these animals “could have a very serious impact on biodiversity.”

‘Eternal’ chemistry

Most of the contaminants identified are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are called “evergreen chemicals” because they persist in the environment for a long time.

“These substances can be found in many everyday products,” says Lee. “They appear in waterproof materials like our raincoats, non-stick pans, containers, fire extinguishers and cosmetics.”

Many of these compounds are on the new Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) list. These are toxic substances, many of which are banned in Canada, that affect the health of living beings and that are released into the physical environment by human activity.

In the samples analyzed, the researchers also detected alkylphenols, a group to which 4NP belongs. In addition to toilet paper, this substance is also found “in herbicides, insecticides and lubricating oils,” the scientists explain.

persistent organic pollutants

The tissues also showed a proliferation of 7:3-fluorotelomer carboxylic acid, or 7:3 FTCA. “We don’t know the human effects of 7:3 FTCA specifically, but it is part of a group of perennial chemicals that have been associated with cancer, changes in fertility, and liver damage, among other consequences,” Lee said. Warned.

There is no ban for this pollutant yet, but the European Chemicals Agency has included it in its list of proposed toxins to be identified as new POPs in accordance with the Stockholm Convention on POPs.

This is also the first research to analyze the transfer of contaminants from mother to fetus in a Southern couple. They found that all of the pollutants identified were transferred in utero, and 95% of 4NP was transferred from mother to fetus.

threat to the entire food chain

“Emerging Contaminants and POPs have been previously detected in other mammals and are regularly monitored”, the researchers point out. However, little is known about its effects on killer whales, so the work “provides important reference data that may serve as the basis for future studies.”

“4NP has not been found in British Columbia before and has been found in killer whales, which are apex predators. This means the contaminant is making its way through the food system,” says Alva.

This compound can pass through sewage treatment plants and industrial discharges into the ocean, where it is taken up by tiny organisms and moves up the food chain.

“This research is another example of an approach that takes into account the health of people, animals and the environment, using orcas as a case study to better understand the potential effects of these and other compounds on animal health.” ” animals and ecosystems”, highlights the paper’s other co-author, IOF associate professor Stephen Reverty.

immediate policy measures

The authors say governments can help protect southern resident orcas and other endangered marine species. To do this, they seek to halt the production of emerging pollutants including 4NP and emerging POPs such as 7:3 FTCA. In addition, they call for identifying and addressing potential sources of marine pollution in British Columbia and Canada.

Alva cautions that orcas aren’t the only ones affected by these compounds: “We’re mammals and we also eat Pacific salmon, so we have to think about how this might affect our health, as well as other shellfish.” even what we eat.”

Nation World News Desk
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