Investigating decadal changes in persistent organic pollutants in Scottish grey seal pups

The current results show a drop in DDT, an increase in DDE, and no change in DDD and HCB between 2002 and 2015–17

Kelly J. Robinson; Ailsa J. Hall; Georges Scholl; Cathy Debier; Jean‐Pierre Thomé; Gauthier Eppe; Catherine Adam; Kimberley A. Bennett


Scholarcy highlights

  • Persistent organic pollutants are lipid‐soluble, highly stable, toxic chemicals that have far‐reaching negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems
  • This work received ethical approval from Abertay University and the University of St Andrews Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee, and was performed in compliance with the Animal Act 1986 and the EU directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes
  • Despite a large gap in the timing of the data collection, the power to detect this change in total CBs and NDL‐CBs was high; except for CB 52 and 101, the NDL‐CB congeners analysed here showed at least a marginal decrease over the 15‐year time period, which is consistent with several studies reporting that the declines in this group of chemicals found in the environment have slowed down after an initial rapid drop during the 1980s to early 1990s
  • Despite decades of regulations restricting the use of POPs globally, these persistent, toxic chemicals are still present in marine ecosystems and organisms
  • The findings from grey seal pups in the North Sea here concur with this global pattern and provide some of the most recent data for POP concentrations in these top marine predators
  • There was a modest ~25% reduction in both NDL‐ and DL‐CBs in the blubber of North Sea grey seal pups from 2002 to 2015–17
  • In the absence of long‐term monitoring, we have shown that comparisons can be made between POP measurements from discrete studies many years apart, for CBs, but attention should be paid to methodological differences, which may make spatial and temporal comparisons difficult
  • Larger sample sizes and longer time series are needed to reliably detect changes in low‐abundance summed Persistent organic pollutants and individual congeners

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