Very high level of PCBs in whale raises alarms.
May 13, 2002 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Very high level of PCBs in whale raises alarms. "The orca found dead on the Olympic Peninsula earlier this year carried a level of contaminants that was among the highest -- if not the highest -- ever measured in killer whales, laboratory tests show". If that is the case with free ranging whales then I shudder to think what similar measurements on city dwelling humans will reveal. Does anyone know of similar contaminant research on humans? (via
posted by talos (10 comments total)
If that is the case with free ranging whales then I shudder to think what similar measurements on city dwelling humans will reveal

It's not the inhalation of PCB that you need to worry about. It's consumption of contaminated food that causes top of the food chain predators such as eagles or killer whales to accumulate PCBs. So city-dwelling is irrelevant for PCB's.
posted by srboisvert at 8:00 AM on May 13, 2002

Point taken srboisvert. It's humans in general that I'm worried about, since it seems obvious that seafood from all over the region (world?) is contaminated. But it's not just PCBs I was thinking about, I've heard claims that even DDT is still present on farming lands and that it is accumulated on human fatty tissue. So my question applies to contaminants in general.
posted by talos at 8:07 AM on May 13, 2002

All those Japanese people who like to slaughter and eat whales aren't going to feel too good if they keep it up... what a shame...
posted by Jubey at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2002

Jobey: I believe those people who do eat whales are eating proper whales (minke i think) who are plankton eaters, so accumulations would be much less severe.

srboisvert has the important point here, PCBs accumulate exponentially the higher up the food chain you go -- I guess its a good thing people aren't big on eating predators for food.

Still, it accumulates pretty well in fish a step down the food chain too. here's a random article I found on the topic(plenty more at the NIH).

One reason I'm glad to be a vegetarian (not preaching here, just saying), at least I'm on the first level of concentrating toxins, not the second or third.
posted by malphigian at 9:15 AM on May 13, 2002

The CDC's toxicology FAQ for PCBs (which haven't been manufactured in the US in over 17 years). Most Great Lakes states have fairly recently placed advisories that pregnant women and children should limit the fish that they eat, and nobody should eat Great Lakes fish every day -- though the risk to almost anyone else is minimal. Exposure being cumulative, this probably isn't a cause for alarm; few people would eat as many fish in their lifetime as a killer whale eats in a year.
posted by dhartung at 9:26 AM on May 13, 2002

Hey Jubey, Don't forget to include Native Americans and Eskimos in your racial profile.
posted by keithl at 10:34 AM on May 13, 2002


As a vegan, I'd like to join you in your relative sense of security.

Unfortunately, pesticide residue is in ground water so it finds its way into organic produce (if you can afford it) and everything else.

basically, the entire american food production complex is tainted if not poisoned for one reason or an other. For example:

High fructose corn syrup is used instead of sugar because its cheaper--thanks to farm subsidies for growing corn. Try finding any commercial and sweetened food product anywhere that doesn't use it. (if you shop in asian markets like I do, you come to realize ther est of the world still uses sugar and that the reasons for HFS use is purely politico-economic. The bottom line is its totally unnatural sugar, one that doesn't exist on its own in nature and it does horrible things to your blood sugar levels.

Refined flour- also creams your blood sugar levels in ways that whole grain flour doesn't even approach.

Hydrogenated oils- again, almost impossible to totally avoid in America and very not good for your blood lipid ratios.

Add to all this the ruminant-fed livestock disaster-in-waiting, and antibiotic over-use and other issues I won't depress you all with and its no wonder that lotsof people are dropping dead from what they eat much more than they did 100 years ago.

The american diet has been profoundly altered, to make food cheaper to produce and increase profits with no mandated safety studies so if you are what you eat, we are all fucked to varying degrees depending on individual genetic resistance to the effects of these food ingredients.

And the US gov't is OK with this, but smoking bud is bad for me so its illegal. go figure. I'm just surprised the Insurance companies don't fight it to lower healthcare costs. Its just as cumulatively bad for you as smoking...
posted by BentPenguin at 10:39 AM on May 13, 2002

I recently found out that I'm pregnant, and in my first prenatal visit my doctor handed me a printout of foods that are too contaminated to considered safe for pregnant women to eat. Whale, not a normal part of the American diet, weren't included, but suprisingly enough, tuna (fresh and canned), mahi-mahi, any fish from the Great Lakes, Sea bass, gulf coast oysters, Marlin and a whole slew of other fish are considered unsafe. Apparently, if I want food that swims, I'm allowed to have farmed fishes, such as trout and catfish. Also discouraged are most chicken, pork and beef, unless they come from certified organic ranches. Talk about scary. Sheesh. Fortunately, I was a vegetarian for most of the 80's, so switching back to brown rice, eggs and veggies hasn't been too much of a challenge, but still...spooky. (And ye gods, do I crave a nice thick steak with cognac sauce.)
posted by dejah420 at 5:21 PM on May 13, 2002

(Repeat after me. Orcas are not whales.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:41 AM on May 14, 2002

You're right Chix. Orcas is an island that the whales, once discovered, were named after.

Quick people of the world! Locate Washington State on a map.

Telling you now that I dwell mostly in the land of sarcasm might ruin the joke. Guffaw away. . .
posted by crasspastor at 4:00 AM on May 14, 2002

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