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DATE: September 12, 2019

SNIP: Bottlenose dolphins in the English Channel have some of the highest levels of toxic mercury in their skin and blubber ever recorded among the species, scientists have found.

They being poisoned by chemicals banned as far back as the 1970s and 1980s because of the risk they posed to wildlife and humans. The chemicals, known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), were commonly used as a refrigerant and are extremely durable, remaining in ecosystems for decades and passing up the food chain.

‘These organic compounds are able to dissolve in fats and oils, and consist of the by-products of various industrial processes and pesticides, among others,’ said Dr Krishna Das. ‘Bottlenose dolphins are often used to study levels of environmental pollutants, as the organic compounds accumulate within their thick layer of fatty tissue.’

Dr Krishna Das, a zoologist at the University of Liege, Belgium, said toxic organic pollutants can be detected even in the deepest dwelling marine life. The dangerous chemical accumulates at the top of the food chain and has a disastrous impact on an animal’s fertility and immune system. Recent research has suggested the long-lasting man-made pollutant could wipe out half of the world’s killer whale population in the next 30 years.