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Posted Wed May 20 2009: from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, via EurekAlert:
Contaminants in marine mammals' brains
The most extensive study of pollutants in marine mammals' brains reveals that these animals are exposed to a hazardous cocktail of pesticides such as DDTs and PCBs, as well as emerging contaminants such as brominated flame retardants.... The chemicals studied include pesticides like DDT, which has been shown to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity, and PCBs, which are neurotoxicants known to disrupt the thyroid hormone system. The study also quantifies concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs (a particular class of flame retardants), which are neurotoxicants that impair the development of motor activity and cognition. This work is the first to quantify concentrations of PBDEs in the brains of marine mammals. The results revealed that concentration of one contaminant was surprisingly high. According to Montie, "The biggest wakeup was that we found parts per million concentrations of hydroxylated PCBs in the cerebrospinal fluid of a gray seal. That is so worrisome for me. You rarely find parts per million levels of anything in the brain."
[Read more stories about: flame retardants, toxic water, PCBs, pesticide runoff]
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'Doc Michael says:
Now, why would marine mammals need flame retardants?

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