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Lasting Toxic Chemicals Put the Dolphins and UK Whales at Risk of Extinction

Update Date: Jan 19, 2016 12:06 PM EST

Dolphins and are species of killer whales face the imminent threat of extinction in waters of UK due to toxic chemicals that were banned 30 years ago but still linger on in the waters, warned the researchers. A study conducted over 1,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins all over Europe revealed that their blubber contain some of the highest concentrations of a man-made chemical, PCB. Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs were used for the production of electrical products, paints and flame retardants but were banned in UK in 1981. The lead author of the study, Dr. Paul Jepson, from Zoological Society of London said that the bottlenose dolphins and the killer whales were most vulnerable to this pollutant, reported Independent.

He said: "Our findings show that, despite the ban and initial decline in environmental contamination, PCBs still persist at dangerously high levels in European cetaceans. Few coastal orca populations remain in western European waters. Those that do persist are very small and suffering low or zero rates of reproduction. The risk of extinction therefore appears high for these discrete and highly contaminated populations. Without further measures, these chemicals will continue to suppress populations of orcas and other dolphin species for many decades to come."

The highest concentrations of PCB were found in bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins and killer whales. When these animals are heavily exposed to this chemical, their immune system suffers and reduces the breeding by causing abortions or early death of newborn calves, said the researchers, reports Press and Journal

Robin Law, who co-authored the report, said: "Our research underlines the critical need for global policymakers to act quickly and decisively to tackle the lingering toxic legacy of PCBs, before it's too late for some of our most iconic and important marine predators. "We also need to better understand the various pathways through which these iconic species are able to accumulate such high PCB concentrations through their diets," as reported by RT.com

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