The cargo ship that ran aground off the coast of Mauritius on 25 July, causing incalculable damage, has split in two and its captain has been arrested.
PCBs, the infamous chemicals keep harming the environment
PCBs have been banned in the USA since 1979. Yet these persistent compounds still wreak havoc on the health of our planet and its inhabitants.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, are a group of highly toxic man-made chemicals introduced in the early twentieth century and quickly acclaimed as an industrial breakthrough. Like the pesticide DDT and herbicide Agent Orange, which were also once thought to be safe, PCBs have a dark side. They don’t break down easily and can turn into dangerous dioxins when burned. Although no longer used nor produced in the United States for almost forty years, PCBs can have devastating effects on the soil, waterways and all forms of life on the planet – for decades.
A brief history of PCBs
Produced by Monsanto in the United States, by the 1930s PCBs were in high demand for use in electrical equipment, surface coating, ink, adhesives, flame-retardants and paint. Round about the same time workers at manufacturing plants started showing signs of intoxication: damage to their immune, nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems, skin ailments, loss of energy and appetite, as well as liver disease and cancer. A 1969 study by Doctor Riseborough of the University of California at Berkeley demonstrated that high levels of the contaminants had affected marine life worldwide. The public’s trust in Monsanto declined as the company downplayed the toxicity of the compounds. Many tonnes of contaminated poultry, pork, cattle and fish, unfit for human consumption, have been destroyed since.
Environmental and food chain contamination
Although levels have decreased since the late 1970s, the major source of air exposure to PCBs today is the redistribution of compounds already present in the soil and water, transported across the planet via air, rain and snow, even to remote and pristine areas of the world. As PCBs are fat-soluble they build up in animal fat, including breast milk, and along the food chain. Consumption of contaminated foods, particularly meat, fish and poultry remains the main source of exposure for consumers. Fishing is still partially restricted in the Great Lakes region of the United States, in fact, and the high concentration of toxins in the blubber of orca whales along the Pacific Coast of North America represents a true danger to their survival and propagation.
— Marine Conservation (@savingoceans) February 16, 2016
In order to limit exposure to PCB residues, environmental organisations recommend choosing fish wisely. Atlantic or farmed salmon as well as other species are best avoided. Online seafood databases as well as smartphone apps list safer fish. Cooking methods that allow the fat to drip away can also help. When it comes to meat and dairy buy organic and ethically-sourced. A balanced and healthy diet rich in fresh, organic fruit, vegetables and naturally detoxifying foods along with physical exercise can aid our bodies in dealing with some of these toxins. Also, when possible avoid exposure to PBDEs, the successors to PCBs, which are currently used as flame retardants in many consumer goods and pose similar risks.
The largest coral reef in the world is severely threatened by climate change, but researchers are developing strategies that could contribute to saving the Great Barrier Reef.
Seychelles have extended its marine protected area, which now covers over 400,000 square kilometres, an area larger than Germany.
Norwegian oil giant Equinor had pulled out of drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, one of the country’s most uncontaminated areas. A victory for activists and surfers who are now campaigning for the area to be protected forever.
30 per cent of the planet needs to be protected to stop precipitous species decline. The UN has set out its aims for the the COP15 on biodiversity scheduled for Kunming, China in October.
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Refusing the anthropocentric vision and respecting the laws of ecology is the only way to safeguard the future of our and all other species, Sea Shepherd President Paul Watson argues in this op-ed.
Once a year on Christmas Island something incredible happens: millions of crabs cross the whole island to reach the ocean, where they drop their eggs.
Malaysian activist Gabby Tan’s mission is to raise awareness about the risks faced by our oceans, and the need to protect them. She spoke to us about her passions and what inspires her.