Pringle lecture (Ecl 6080): 26 October 2009. Understanding and Controlling Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs): An important, yet neglected, dimension of Conservation Biology?. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) A. Historical perspective on synthetic chemicals
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Understanding and Controlling Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs):
An important, yet neglected, dimension of Conservation Biology?
A. Historical perspective on synthetic chemicals
B. Effects in wildlife (2002 Global Assessment EDCs)
C. Effects on humans
-body burdens in newborns (EWG 2005 report)
II. Measuring toxicity
A. acute versus chronic
B. lethal vs sublethal
-sublethal (reproductive, development
and growth, behavior, immune system
A.How can we regulate POPs?
-reforming federal law
B. How can we stop the international trade
in hazardous/toxic wastes?
There are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals on the market - most largely produced since World War II.
Federal regulation of production of these chemicals very
By the early 1970s - warning signs of environmental problems
-DDT - bird and bald eagle deaths
(Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring)
-DES - widely used drug which caused cancer
-PCBs - killing birds and fish
Unfortunately the above problems were viewed more
as isolated cases:
a few rogue chemicals had wrecked havoc…so
ban DDT, ban DES, ban PCBs
By introducing so many substances that did not evolve with living organisms over hundreds of millions of years, …have we unwittingly initiated changes in our biology that may be damaging it profoundly?
1874 DDT first synthesized
1889 First reports of skin disease linked to POPs
Industrial scale production of PCBs
1948 Paul Muller receives Nobel Prize
1959 Peak of DDT use in the US
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is published
Wildlife damage reported
US bans DDT
US bans manufacture of PCBs
Theo Colburn’s Our Stolen Future is published
1998 Convention on POPs
2001 Stockholm Convention on POPs
The Dirty Dozen:
have reproductive problems
1. Bald eagle 1. Lake trout
2. Black crowned night heron 2. Sauger
3. Caspian tern
4. Common tern Reptiles:
5. Double crested cormorant 1. Snapping turtle
6. Forster’s tern
7. Herring gull Mammals:
8. Osprey 1. Beluga whale
9. Ring-billed gull 2. Mink
attributed to predation
………What is the
role of POPs ?
deaths linked to bacterial
Male Kestrels dosed with pesticides are
smaller and less dominant than un-dosed
in Great Lakes
cormorant eggs resulting
from exposure to DDT
populations of relatively resistant species like gulls
into Lake Apopka, FL, results
in reproductive abnormalities
in alligators and population
decline of 90%
-altered levels of
vitamin A, and
-suppression of immune
-only Pacific Northwest
orcas, Baltic Sea seals
and St. Lawrence
River belugas have
been found with higher
doses of PCBs than
polar bears in
In a study spearheaded by the EWG, researchers at two major lab-
oratories found an average of 200 industrial compounds, pollutants,
and other chemicals in 10 newborn babies, with a total of 287
chemicals found in the group.
The chemicals found in newborns include: organochlorine pesticides (DDT and dieldrin) chemicals currently or formerly used in a wide range of consumer products (perfluoro- chemicals, brominated fire retardants, PCBs) chemical pollutants from waste incineration and fossil fuel combustion (polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins and furans, polychlorinated naphthalenes, mercury).
EPA's policies on toxic chemicals largely target cancer. EPA with no formal policy regarding childrens' vulnerability to chemicals that damage the immune system, the brain, or the hormone system, kidney, liver, lungs, thyroid or a host of other potential targets, even though plenty of evidence says that children face higher risks for harm.
industrial chemicals is quite literally out of control.
The EWG study and a strong body of supporting science suggest that fetal exposure to industrial chemicals is contributing to adverse health effects in the human population. Experience indicates that it is never too late to take action. Blood levels of PCBs and pesticides like DDT are lower today than 30 years ago when they were banned. Since these watershed actions in the 1970s, however, few industrial chemicals have been regulated to any significant degree.
The various reasons for this stagnation — the need for data on chemical toxicity and exposure, lack of ambition at the EPA, and chemical industry intransigence — all come back to one central cause: the absence of a strong federal chemical safety law that provides the EPA with unambiguous statutory authority to take the actions needed to ensure that chemicals are safe.
How can we regulate POPs on a
health and environmental law, with the following core
provisions. A new TSCA would:
• Require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate
affirmatively that the chemicals they sell are safe for
the entire population exposed, including children in
the womb. In the absence of information on the risks
of pre-natal exposure, chemicals must be assumed
to present greater risk to the developing baby in utero,
and extra protections must be required at least as
strict as the 10 fold children's safety factor in FQPA
• Require that the safety of closely related chemicals, such as the perfluorochemicals used to make Teflon and other stain-resistant and water repellant products, be assessed as a group. The presumption would be that these chemicals have additive toxicity unless manufacturers clearly prove otherwise.• Grant the EPA clear and unencumbered authority to demand all studies needed to make a finding of safety and to enforce clear deadlines for study completion.
• Remove from the market chemicals for which tests demonstrating safety are not conducted.• Eliminate confidential business protection for all health, safety, and environmental information.• Require that material safety data sheets provided to workers contain the results of studies conducted under these provisions.• Provide strong incentives for green, safer chemicals in consumer products and industrial processes.
questions with respect
to the role of exposures
in utero both in a range
of children's health
problems and in diseases
developed in adulthood
that may have their
origins in early life
trade in toxic and hazardous wastes?
Control of Transboundary Movements of
Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal:
movement of hazardous wastes
and make informed choices:
-baby products (Tiny Footprints website)
-Environmental Working Group’s website
-email firstname.lastname@example.org for full list of web sites