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Chlorinated hydrocarbons in the marine environment. A report prepared by the Panel on Monitoring Persistent Pesticides in the Marine Environment of the Committee on Oceanography

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Abstract

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS : The oceans are an ultimate accumulation site for the persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons. As much as 25 percent of the DDT compounds produced to date may have been transferred to the sea. The amount of DDT compounds in the marine biota is estimated to be less than 0.1 percent of total production, yet this amount has produced a demonstrable impact upon the marine environment. Populations of fish-eating birds have experienced reproductive failure and decline. With continued accumulations of persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons in the marine ecosystem, additional species will be threatened. Continued release of these pollutants to the environment can only accelerate the accumulation of unacceptable levels of persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons in the tissues of marine food fish. Certain risks in the utilization of chlorinated hydrocarbons are especially hard to quantify, but they require serious consideration. The rate at which such substances degrade to harmless products in the marine system is unknown; the half-lives of some of the more persistent materials are certainly of the order of years, and perhaps even of decades or centuries. If most of the remaining 75 percent of the persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons is now in reservoirs that will in time transfer their contents to the sea, we may expect an increased level of these substances in marine organisms, despite future improvements of manufacturing practices. In fact, if these compounds degrade with half-lives of decades or longer, there will be no opportunity to redress the consequences. The more the problems are studied, the more unexpected effects are identified. In view of the findings of the past decade, our prediction of the potential hazards of chlorinated hydrocarbons in the marine environment may be vastly underestimated. The Panel makes the following recommendations, which will be developed and expanded in the remainder of the report: ? A massive national effort should be made immediately to effect a drastic reduction of the escape of persistent toxicants into the environment, with the ultimate aim of achieving virtual cessation in the shortest possible time. ? Programs should be designed both to determine the rates of entry of each pollutant into the marine environment and to make base-line determinations of the distribution of the pollutants among the components of that environment, These should be followed by a program of monitoring long-term trends in order to record progress and to document possible disaster. ? The laws relating to the registration of chemical substances and the release of production figures by government should be examined and perhaps revised in light of evidence of environmental deterioration caused by some of these substances.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Book
Title:
Chlorinated hydrocarbons in the marine environment. A report prepared by the Panel on Monitoring Persistent Pesticides in the Marine Environment of the Committee on Oceanography
Year Published:
1971
Language:
English
Publisher:
National Academy of Sciences
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description:
vii, 42