Just when you thought penguins fared better than polar bears!
Just when you thought the Antarctic marine life had only a few minor problems like the climate change and ozone hole to worry about, but were otherwise safe from other harms like ingesting plastic trash, or growing a “skin” rash from pesticide contamination, it has been revealed that the deadly pesticide DDT, banned in most countries more than 35 years ago, stills show up in penguins in Antarctica.
A researcher has blamed the DDT contamination on the chemical’s accumulation of the poison in melting glaciers.
“DDT, along with a lot of other of these organic contaminants, actually travel through the atmosphere … toward the polar regions by a process of evaporation and then condensation in cooler climates,” according to Heidi Geisz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The DDT contamination in the Adelie penguins was first discovered in 1964. The contamination level rose in the 1970s and has stayed stable since then, Geisz said.
Mating Adelie penguins at Cape Adare in Ross Sea, Antarctica January of 2001. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license versions 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0 (Credit: Mila Zinkova)
In 1962, Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson was published. The book cataloged the environmental impacts of the indiscriminate spraying of DDT in the US and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health. The book suggested that DDT and other pesticides may cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. Its publication was one of the signature events in the birth of the environmental movement. Silent Spring resulted in a large public outcry that eventually led to most uses of DDT being banned in the US in 1972. DDT was subsequently banned for agricultural use worldwide, but its limited use in disease vector control continues to this day in certain parts of the world and remains controversial. (source)
Is it possible that New Zealand is still using DDT in large quantities?
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