Pollutants without Borders

Image: Corbis ENDANGERED BELUGAS: One challenge for researchers is to find out how chemicals are getting into the lipids and tissues of animals such as the beluga whales who reside in the St. Lawrence Seaway. During the last 50 years, millions of pounds of chemicals have dispersed into the environment in a multitude of forms: industrial wastes, abandoned chemical weapons, fertilizers, pesticides, cleaners, furniture treatments, and the list goes on. Now, a small cadre of environmental re

A. J. S. Rayl
Sep 1, 2002
Image: Corbis
 ENDANGERED BELUGAS: One challenge for researchers is to find out how chemicals are getting into the lipids and tissues of animals such as the beluga whales who reside in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

During the last 50 years, millions of pounds of chemicals have dispersed into the environment in a multitude of forms: industrial wastes, abandoned chemical weapons, fertilizers, pesticides, cleaners, furniture treatments, and the list goes on. Now, a small cadre of environmental researchers in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States is working to develop a sophisticated means to identify chemical lifestyles--where they go, how they get there, and what they do--and determine the potential impact on human health and local and global ecosystems.

Over the years, environmental scientists have gathered a mountain of evidence that a number of these chemicals--particularly the ones known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs)--cycle the globe, contaminating fields, watersheds, air,...

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