As bottlenose dolphins continue to die and wash ashore in alarming numbers, it’s worth remembering that testing conducted by my research team in December 2010 indicated persistent toxic components of crude oil in a common dolphin food – sea nettles (or jellyfish).
Now it appears that contamination could be coming home to roost in a very tragic way.
Three sea nettles were collected on Sept. 22 by our colleagues at Boston Chemical Data from an intertidal beach in Gulfport, Miss. (remember, the majority of the dead dolphin calves are washing up on Mississippi and Alabama beaches). The samples were tested at the ALS Laboratory in Edmonton, Canada.
The results, which we made public on Dec. 5, were disturbing even to seasoned researchers. The sea nettles were found to be contaminated with 46.0 mg/kg of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), making them among the more contaminated samples of marine organisms our research team has sampled over the course of this disaster.
The PAHs found in the sea nettles include alkylated naphthalenes, phenanthrenes, and benzo(a)pyrene. These are persistent toxic components of crude oil that can bioaccumulate and move up the food chain to contaminate predatory animals, like dolphins and sharks.
And while NOAA contorts itself to make sure nobody “rushes to judgment,” it should be noted that a forensic analysis of the oil found in the sea nettles was a match to BP’s crude oil on not one but three markers.
According to Marco Kaltofen, a researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute: “Toxic materials in petroleum can move up the food web from one species to another. Given all of the ways that marine mammals can accumulate toxins from their food, we need to be on alert for unexpected problems, such as mortality events.”
I find it extremely troubling and disappointing that our government is insisting on taking a “gee whiz, what could it ever be?” attitude when there’s strong evidence that the BP spill (oil and/or dispersant) is, at minimum, a primary suspect in these dolphin deaths. From a PR perspective, dolphins hold a powerful cultural significance for Americans, and this tragic situation will be very difficult to spin.
Our findings in December were virtually ignored by the relevant government agencies, like NOAA and EPA. Now that dead baby dolphins are washing ashore, that contamination is going to be increasingly difficult to shrug off.
Kaltofen: “Many of our tests show conclusively that marine wildlife still harbors petroleum contamination. Our tests are being done using the same methods as NOAA and other government agencies, and often we are using the same laboratories. This type of response data should not be ignored.”
See our test data here: jellyfishdata
Here is our original post from Dec. 5:
NEW TEST RESULTS: Sea Nettles – A Common Food for Bottlenose Dolphins – Contaminated with Alarming Levels of “Persistent Toxic Components of Crude Oil”
Sample description: Composite of 3 sea nettles (jellyfish)
Sampled on: September 22, 2010 by Boston Chemical Data
Sample location: Gulfport Beach, Mississippi, on intertidal beach
Testing by: ALS Laboratory of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Three sea nettles – a common food for bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf – were sampled, tested, and found to be contaminated with 46.0 mg/kg of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, (PAHs). These are among the more contaminated samples of marine organisms our research team has sampled. PAHs found include alkylated naphthalenes, phenanthrenes, and benzo(a)pyrene. These are persistent toxic components of crude oil that can bioaccumulate and move up the food chain to contaminate predatory animals.
Note: Forensic analysis found a match to BP crude oil for 1 of 3 triaromatic sterane ratios, 2 of 3 aromatic steranes, and 1 of 5 terpanes.
Here’s the link to our original Dec. 5 post: http://oilspillaction.com/new-test-results-sea-nettles-%E2%80%93-a-common-food-for-bottlenose-dolphins-%E2%80%93-contaminated-with-alarming-levels-of-persistent-toxic-components-of-crude-oil
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