Countless chemicals float in our oceans, infecting the wondrous wildlife that exists beneath. One of these is called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBSs, and these artificial chemicals have been doing some serious damage to the killer whale population as a whole for many years. A recent study, that tops the charts as the largest of its kind, has revealed some terrifying news about PCBs. And there’s little we can do to change it.
PCBs: The side effects
PCBs have quite a long history. Before they were wreaking havoc underwater, they were used as crucial parts of certain electrical devices. In 1979, the United States banned the use of the chemical in any and all forms. Unfortunately, it was already too late. The killer whale population proved to shrink by half since the 1970s.
Currently, the concentrations of PCBs in the world’s oceans are still high enough to have a huge effect on the killer whale population. A research team set out to test these PCB levels in the actual whales themselves- a whopping 350 of them from pods around the world. The experiment was intended to use the calculations of damage done since 1979 and create a 100-year projection based on that information.
The endless cycle
Researchers very quickly realized that newborn killer whales were a rarity. The PCBs cause infertility as well as lowered immune systems. Sadly the PCBs are passed through mother’s milk, so the pod continues to pass it on regardless of water concentrations.
They also recorded that over half of the killer whales examined were affected by PCBs. With this many whales still carrying the chemicals, it was no shock that the population had decreased so dramatically. Those areas most affected included pods from the Strait of Gibraltar, the northeast Pacific, and oceans surrounding Brazil and the UK.
Plugging the numbers in reveals a scary future for these intelligent, beautiful creatures. The results of this study showed that of the remaining pods, another half will be gone within the next 30-50 years.
PCBs are one of the millions of hazards that killer whales face every single day. Due to the carelessness of human beings, being the last link of the food chain has not been beneficial for these phenomenal behemoths.