Toxic chemicals produced from oil emissions and wildfire smoke have been found in muscle and liver samples from Southern Resident killer whales and Bigg’s killer whales. A study published today in Scientific Reports is the first to find polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in orcas off the coast of B.C., as well as in utero transfer of the chemicals from mother to fetus.

“Killer whales are iconic in the Pacific Northwest—important culturally, economically, ecologically and more. Because they are able to metabolically process PAHs, these are most likely recent exposures. Orcas are our canary in the coal mine for oceans, telling us how healthy our waters are,” said senior author Dr. Juan José Alava, principal investigator of the UBC Ocean Pollution Research Unit and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University.

PAHs are a type of chemical found in coal, oil and gasoline which research suggests are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and have toxic effects on mammals. Their presence in the ocean comes from several sources, including oil spills, burning coal and forest fire smoke particles.

Source: ENN

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