May 20, 2009

Pesticides found in marine mammals’ brains

U.S. scientists say they have discovered marine mammals are being exposed to a cocktail of pesticides, as well as new contaminants.

In what's called the most extensive study of pollutants in marine mammals' brains, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientists found the animals are exposed pesticides such as DDT and PCBs, as well as contaminants such as brominated flame retardants.

Eric Montie, lead author of the study, performed the research in collaboration with Mark Hahn and Chris Reddy of the oceanographic institute and Robert Letchre of Environment Canada.

Montie analyzed both the cerebrospinal fluid and the gray matter of the cerebellum in 11 cetaceans and one gray seal stranded near Cape Cod, Mass.

The biggest wake up was that we found parts per million concentrations of hydroxylated PCBs in the cerebrospinal fluid of a gray seal, Montie said. That is so worrisome for me. You rarely find parts per million levels of anything in the brain.

Montie sees the work as the forefront of a new field of research, something that might be called neuroecotoxicology.

As for future results produced by neuroecotoxicology, Montie said, I think we don't really know the brunt of what we are going to see in wildlife.

The study is to appear in an upcoming edition of the journal Environmental Pollution and was published in the April 17 online version of the journal.