- LONDON (REUTERS) - Dutch scientists said on Wednesday they had found
evidence that potentially harmful chemicals have reached deep sea waters,
posing a long-term threat to whales and other ocean life.
- Writing in Nature magazine, they said
the compounds were similar in their behavior to well-known environmentally
harmful chemicals such as PCBs and DDT.
- But far from being banned, the compounds
are widely used as flame retardants and are found in relatively high concentrations
in a wide range of products including cars, computers, textiles and televisions.
- Jacob de Boer and Peter Wester said they
found traces of the flame retardants -- polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs)
and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) -- in sperm whales and other
marine animals stranded on the Dutch coast.
- "An environmental problem may be
on the way," de Boer and Wester wrote.
- Because sperm whales normally stay and
feed in depths of 400-1,200 yards, they said the presence of the compounds
indicated they had reached the depths of the oceans.
- "The levels are not as high yet
as for PCBs, but we think that these compounds should be banned because
they are very similar to PCBs.
- "They are still being produced and
being used every day in increasing amounts," de Boer, from the Netherlands
Institute for Fisheries Research, told Reuters.
- PBBs and PBDEs can affect the reproductive
system and the regulation of thyroid and steroid hormones.
- "Of course those effects only occur
at a certain level ... But based on the ongoing production, you could easily
predict that concentrations will go up," de Boer said.