Reproduction of wild animals endangered by plastics?

Reproduction of wild animals endangered by plastics?

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Plastic and its effects on animal reproduction

There are many indications that the production and use of plastics means that we humans have unforeseen effects on the entire environment and animal life. A British research team has now found that chemicals made from plastics actually disrupt the hormones of wild animals and thus impair growth and reproductive success.

In their current study, scientists from the internationally recognized University of Oxford found that chemicals made from plastics have a major impact on the reproductive success of wild animals. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences".

Mining plastic waste is a problem for our ecosystem

The wild animals in our oceans and on land are exposed to a true cocktail of various pollutants, which are also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). So far, despite years of research, relatively little is known about how these common substances interact in the environment. The growing problem of plastic waste mining in fragile ecosystems is one of the key areas of research for scientists today.

PCB has a negative impact on the reproduction of whales

In the past, for example, killer whales have already been found to have a high pollutant content of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), which were used in many plastics, before PCB was banned worldwide in 2004. Apparently, the pollutants cause problems with reproduction in marine animals. A herd of whales off the west coast of Scotland, known to have a high PCB content, has not given birth to a calf in 25 years. This shows the great danger to wild animals from our plastic waste. In a fully washed out orca, which the researchers named Lulu, 957 mg / kg PCB accumulated in the lipid tissue, a value that is 100 times above the so-called toxicity threshold. Although Lulu was of childbearing age, it was found that she could not calve. Lulu was sterile as if she were a teenager, but the animal should have been fully developed, the scientists say.

Will the killer whale population halve?

A model recently predicted that the number of orcas could be halved within a century due to PCBs (which are particularly susceptible to marine mammals) and the accumulation of fat-soluble EDCs in their tissues. The high-fat milk of the marine animals and their long lactation times mean that mothers pass on more toxins to their offspring. Despite the ban on PCBs, the presence of PCBs in Europe since 1998 appears to have stabilized rather than continued to decline, possibly due to chemical leaching in plastic landfills and other products in which they were previously used, the explain Scientist.

Interactions between chemicals are largely unknown

The experts examined the possible exposure of marine life and there are further indications of toxicity. Unfortunately, while there are many seabirds, mammals, and fish with plastic in their stomachs, many of the possible effects of PCBs are still completely unknown. Although the release of EDCs has been shown to have deleterious effects on wildlife populations, the interactions between chemicals are still largely unknown, the scientists explain. There is a very large proportion of chemicals that we use every day, but very little is known about. This is a huge knowledge gap, since experts don't even know what effects the substances can have.

More research is needed

Further studies are needed to predict how chemicals will interact in the environment because current methods of testing chemicals after they are manufactured are too slow and the interactions between different chemicals in the environment are difficult to study. It is difficult to predict what effects such and similar chemicals will have on the environment, the doctors explain. A better understanding of the structure of chemicals must be developed in order to predict possible damage to the environment.

Chemicals can even feminize male fish

The endocrine system is the accumulation of glands that produce hormones and plays a vital role in almost all biological functions, including growth, development and reproduction. Some of the well-known sources of EDC, such as PCB, have been banned, but others are still in operation. These include synthetic hormones such as those used in birth control pills. These hormones have already been found to have an impact on wildlife, including the feminization of certain male fish, even at very low concentrations. (as)

Author and source information

Video: Sumatran Rhinos Are Nearly GoneNew Plan Launched to Save Them. National Geographic (October 2022).