Chemical waste pollution reaches the bottom of the ocean

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Crustaceans inhabiting the sea abysses present levels of pollution

Photo: Flowcomm/Flickr/c

The contamination produced by humans reaches the same ocean floor, according to a study published Monday, detailing the finding of banned chemical compounds in samples of amphipods, tiny crustaceans similar to translucent mini-shrimp residing in seagrasses.

“The abyssal funds are still seen as a distant and immaculate kingdom, preserved from human action, but our work shows that, unfortunately, that idea is far from being true,” says Alan Jamieson, a researcher at Newcastle University) and co-author of this study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

To examine these crustaceans, of the few organisms capable of surviving such depths and levels of pressure, the researchers employed special tools capable of descending into two enormous Pacific pits: the Marianas, the deepest known (about 11 km) , Near Guam Island, and Kermadec Trench (more than 10 km), north of New Zealand.

What they discovered was that, even deep in the earth’s crust, amphipods had “extraordinary” levels of chemical contamination.

Scientists were able to test the presence of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), banned 40 years ago, and PBDE (polybromodiphenyl ethers), and long used to make fire resistant textiles and plastics.

Both components were present in all samples collected in both trenches at different depths.

“Finding these pollutants in one of the most remote and inaccessible places on earth makes us realize the long-term devastating impact of humans on the planet,” says Alan Jamieson.

Between 1930 and 1970, there were 1.3 million tonnes of PCBs produced worldwide. Since then, about 35% would have ended up in the ocean and in the terrestrial sediments.

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