Monday, February 26, 2018

From drugged oysters to birds full of plastic, oceans are feeling the burden of pollution

[PBS] Traces of life on land are increasingly showing up in oceans and in ocean life. Scientists are finding a growing presence of pharmaceuticals, small pieces of plastic and household chemicals in the bodies of Pacific razor clams, Pacific oysters and remote seabirds.
Researchers from Portland State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are presenting some of their findings at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland.
KQED’s Brian Watt spoke with two of the presenting scientists prior to the Monday press conference: Elise Granek, professor at PSU and Veronica Padula, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Watt: Dr. Granek, you and your students are looking for pollution from land, in sea life. What are you finding?
Granek: We are finding antibiotics, anti-fungal agents, and a chemical that’s used in detergents and counter cleaners and paints.
Watt: Is this popping up in all sea life? Or does it matter where the sea life is?
Granek: We are finding that for the pharmaceuticals, it does matter where they are. We see those compounds in oysters that we’ve transplanted to locations that are close to waste water treatment plant outfall pipes.
Watt: What about the household chemicals?
Granek: As for the surfactants that we’re finding, it doesn’t seem to matter as much where the oysters have been transplanted. They seem to be so wide spread because they’re used in industrial and household applications, again in cleaners, in paints.
Watt: Are levels of these chemicals high enough to harm humans, if we eat these animals?
Granek: That is a great question, and one that we really don’t know the answer to. For pharmaceuticals, there’s currently no federal guidelines in terms of what is a safe level of consumption, both for pharmaceuticals and for these surfactants. They are not regulated the way chemicals like lead or mercury are regulated, with set federal guidelines of safe levels.
Watt: Do you think what you found, applies to the California coast as well?
Granek: Yes. There has been some research in California, so we know that there are some pharmaceuticals, and some of these surfactants in animals in the ocean in California. In addition, because the California coast is much more developed and has a much higher human population, there’s likely much higher use of pharmaceuticals, and therefore higher levels of pharmaceuticals along the California coast. Read More