Alarming levels of PCB threatening marine wildlife in UK

by saspin01 on November 10, 2017 - 11:42pm

It has been reported that killer whales in the UK region are contaminated with record levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – a manmade toxic chemical that is considered stable and commonly found in plastics, paints and electrical equipment. The PCB contamination crisis in the marine food chain was revealed when a whale named Lulu was tested after found dead in 2016 from failing to free herself from fishing lines she got entangled in off the coast of Scotland. There are still an estimated one million tonnes of PCB related products seeping into the ocean and waiting to be properly disposed, however the process is described as difficult and expensive. There are only 8 UK killer whales left in the region that are not reproducing, making this shocking realization a serious concern for the long-term survival of whales in this region.

The sudden attention of PCB’s is a result of environmental management implementations that occurred decades ago. PCB’s have been banned from production in the 1970’s after an assessment of the chemical exposed the health risks it had on humans. It’s good that the halt in PCB production reduced further expansion of the toxin, but I think there was a lot of ignorance regarding what to do with the PCB that already existed. Today, environmental assessments exposed the obvious biological effects the chemical has had on aquatic life and the marine food chain. In Europe, there are an estimated one million tonnes of PCB material building up in landfills and seeping into our oceans. Conflict of interest arises in the waste management sector due to the complexity and cost of the disposal. proper disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls requires a strictly monitored incineration process of 1000 degrees celsius. Although the the concern of PCB’s is a global issue, it is up to individual nations to take it upon themselves to prevent further contamination through proper management of any existing PCB’s relevant to them.

To implement a solution, I suggest the federal government of Scotland and surrounding nations consider a similar strategic approach like the US. The US Environmental Protection Agency has initiated intense work towards decontaminating sites with recognizable concentrations of PCB to prevent any further ocean contamination. Investing economically into regulating landfills will likely benefit the economy of a sustained marine ecosystem in the future. This issue has grasped media attention internationally, which I imagine has initiated public pressure within the region to encourage state action in treating this problem. To me, it seems like a no-brainer to implement environmentally friendly policies and procedures in the necessary facilities. Immediately, the fact that only 8 killer whales roam this region was alarming as a reader considering the fact that contamination is not limited to the one species, and is inevitably harming marine ecosystems as a whole. 

 

Link to article:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39738582

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