Toxins from distant countries found in polar bears’ brains

A female polar bear ventures close to a visiting boat over the moving ice flow on June 6, 2012 in Vaigattfjellet, North Spitsbergen, Norway. Credit: Getty Images
The substances have been known to cause infertility, among other problems.
Credit: Getty Images

Polar bears in East Greenland have toxins in their brains, which can impact the endangered animals’ fertility, Danish researchers have discovered. What’s worse is that the polar bears have not have ingested products containing the dangerous perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) accidentally.

“Other pollutants dissipate into the environment, but these don’t,” lead researcher Rune Dietz, professor of Wildlife Biology and Toxicology at Aarhus University in Denmark, tells Metro. “And they don’t exist in polar bears’ habitat either. A lot of the production of products with these substances now takes place in China. [Our findings] show how far these pollutants are able to travel.”

Dietz’s team has studied 500 polar bears in East Greenland for the past 30 years.

The products in question are everyday items like Teflon pans and textile coatings. Precisely because they don’t dissipate into the environment, they travel up the food chain once they’ve been ingested by a lowly fish species. They also travel far distances inside the bodies of the various fish species and marine mammals, which is how they arrive in polar bear habitats. “When you get to the top of the food chain, where the polar bear reside, you get the highest concentration of these toxins,” explains Dietz.

Though no conclusive evidence exists, PFAS are suspected of damaging the brain, liver and reproduction.

“There are higher levels of PFASs in the brains of Inuits (Greenlanders) as well,” explains Dietz.

Even more worryingly, people in industrialized countries who have never eaten marine mammals have PFASs in their brains, too. But, if they eat neither marine mammals nor fish, how do they ingest the toxins? Researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research are the science world’s detectives, trying to establish how the poisonous substances enter our bodies.

“The increase in PFASs in humans and polar bears is very frightening,” notes Dietz. “The good news is that production of products using these pollutants peaked in 2006. But it’s worrying that there’s still very little regulation of PFASs in China.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD: Suspect dead after two U.S. Marshals, cop…

A suspected sex offender died during a shootout inside a West Village smoke shop that left two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective wounded, officials said.

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.

Food

Zagat releases '30 Under 30' list

Zagat releases a list of the people changing the food and drink industry across the country.