Whale of a problem

Published: Thursday 15 October 1998

-- (Credit: Rajat Baran)TOXIC industrial chemicals have been discovered in the tissues of whales that normally feed in the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Even though the quantities found may not be harmful, their findings show how far the chemicals have penetrated the ocean's food chain. The chemicals found are the polybrominated compounds, mostly used as flame retardants in television set casings and children's clothing. Scientists say that these chemicals behave much like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dichlorodiphenyle trichloro ethane (DDT), which are banned.

Because of the severe fire regulations and increased use of plastics, production of flame retardants, including toxic compounds has grown rapidly in the last decade, say the scientists. They also warn that significant compounds were already there in sea creatures like dolphins and seals that live near the coast, but finding them in minke whales is more disturbing. Not much effort has been made to look for alternatives because these compounds are useful and relatively cheap.

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