Analysis of nearly 1,000 sperm whale tissues (sampled using a dart gun, not the Japanese harpoon method) reveals ‘jaw dropping’ levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury, and titanium:

“The entire ocean life is just loaded with a series of contaminants, most of which have been released by human beings,’’ Payne said in an interview at the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting.

“These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply. They certainly are threatening the whales and the other animals that live in the ocean,’’ he said.

Roger Payne (a man with some pretty serious whale science credentials, being the first researcher to document whale songs back in the late 1960′s) went on to say “You could make a fairly tight argument to say that it is the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species. I suspect this will shorten lives, if it turns out that this is what’s going on”. If this holds true, it’s pretty disturbing:

“The biggest surprise was chromium,’’ Payne said. “That’s an absolute shocker. Nobody was even looking for it.’’

Chromium, a corrosion-resistant material, is used in stainless steel, paints, dyes, and the tanning of leather, and can cause lung cancer in people who work in industries where it is commonly used.

Wise applied chromium to healthy whale cells in the laboratory to study its effect. He found that the concentration of chromium found in whales was several times higher than the level required to kill healthy cells in a petri dish, Payne said.

Link to full story here.

 

One Response to "You could make a fairly tight argument to say that it is the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species. I suspect this will shorten lives, if it turns out that this is what’s going on"

  1. Jez, do you have a link to the interview? There are now many reports of the interview. Here is a link to the Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/24/AR2010062403602.html

    The interview appears to have followed the release of a report, “The Voyage of the Odyssey Report” from Payne’s foundation, Ocean Alliance.

    The executive summary of the report is available at
    http://www.oceanalliance.org/voyage_report.htm but the full report doesn’t seem to be on the website.

    The version of the report presented to the IWC meeting does not seem to be on its website at http://www.iwcoffice.org/_documents/commission/IWC62docs/iwc62docs.htm

    This looks like a very serious issue for whale conservation that clearly requires further research but to say that “You could make a fairly tight argument to say that it [contamination of the marine foodchain] is the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species” is hyperbole when you compare it to the recognised threats from climate change and ocean acidification.

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