Banned Chem­i­cals from the 70s found in Deep­est Reaches of the Ocean

Asian Diver (English) - - What Bubbled -

A study led by New­cas­tle Univer­sity’s Dr Alan Jamieson has un­cov­ered the first evidence that man-made pol­lu­tants have now reached the far­thest cor­ners of our Earth. Sam­pling am­phipods from the Pa­cific Ocean’s Mar­i­ana and Ker­madec Trenches – which are over 10 kilo­me­tres deep and 7,000 kilo­me­tres apart – the team found ex­tremely high lev­els of Per­sis­tent Or­ganic Pol­lu­tants in the or­gan­ism’s fatty tis­sue. These in­clude poly­chlo­ri­nated biphenyls (PCBs) and poly­bromi­nated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which are com­monly used as elec­tri­cal in­su­la­tors and flame re­tar­dants.

From the 1930s to when PCBs were banned in the 1970s, the to­tal global pro­duc­tion of these chem­i­cals was in the re­gion of 1.3 mil­lion tonnes. Re­leased into the en­vi­ron­ment through in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents and dis­charges and leak­age from land­fills, these pol­lu­tants are in­vul­ner­a­ble to nat­u­ral degra­da­tion and so per­sist in the en­vi­ron­ment for decades.

“This re­search shows that far from be­ing re­mote, the deep ocean is highly con­nected to the sur­face waters,” says Dr Jamieson. “We’re very good at tak­ing an ‘out of sight out of mind’ ap­proach when it comes to the deep ocean but we can’t af­ford to be com­pla­cent.”

In April, the study “Hu­man foot­print in the abyss: 30 year records of deep-sea plas­tic” found a plas­tic bag in the Mar­i­ana Trench, 10,898 me­tres deep. “We still think of the deep ocean as be­ing this re­mote and pris­tine realm, safe from hu­man im­pact, but our re­search shows that, sadly, this could not be fur­ther from the truth,” says Dr Jamieson.

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