Heavy Metal Whales

A hot topic among the Museum’s docent crew this morning, and also within Google Alerts for ‘whales’, is the sobering news that a recent study of 1,000 sperm whales has shown high levels of toxic and heavy metals in these animals.  In fact, a quote from noted cetacean biologist, and founder of Ocean Alliance, Roger Payne, has the phrase ‘jaw dropping concentrations’.

It’s been noted in recent studies that PCBs and mercury are moving up the ocean’s food chains and settling in high concentrations in the tissues of marine mammals and predatory fish.   A Science Daily article from September 10, 2007 states that orcas (killer whales) are the most PCB-contaminated creatures on Earth.

Creators of the film, The Cove, have been sampling tissue of dolphins caught in Japanese harbors and publishing the results as a means of getting people to stop eating dolphin meat.  The warnings for mercury contamination are similar to warnings here for swordfish and tuna consumption by women of childbearing years.

Personally, I’m not  surprised to read that these animals are contaminated.  However, the levels are shocking and a bit depressing.  A grad school professor once commented that we’ll each die with 10 pounds of pesticides in our bodies.  So, why should it be any different for metals.

A perusal of my music collection will confirm that I’m a fan of heavy metal, but only the kind that is potentially hazardous to my hearing.  This version definitely needs to be turned off.

The Boston Globe article can be found here.

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