New research shows persistent pollutants present in UK otters above toxic thresholds decades after ban
In a study published last month, researchers at The Cardiff University Otter Project have found evidence of worrying levels of persistent pollutants in otters.
The researchers analysed contaminant information collected between 1992 and 2009 and detected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in 80% of the 755 otters tested. These pollutants included PCBs and DDT, synthetic chemicals which were banned worldwide in the 2001 Stockholm Convention, due to their harmful effects on humans, wildlife, and the environment.
Synthetic chemicals that don’t degrade easily in the environment are known as persistent chemicals, or POPs. When chemicals don’t break down but continue to be released, their concentration in the environment increases. If a persistent chemical is also harmful to wildlife and human health this is a major concern.
These researchers concluded that despite these chemicals being banned for 20 years, “concentrations of these legacy pollutants still pose a risk to otters and other freshwater predators.”
Banned since 2001, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are still being linked to reproductive problems in marine mammals. For example, a study published earlier this year linked PCBs to reduced fertility in male harbour porpoises.
Read more about the effects of PCBs, DDT, and other persistent chemical pollutants on our wildlife and environment webpage.
In 2013 CHEM Trust collaborated with Cardiff University’s Otter Project to produce a report on the effects of persistent chemical pollutants on otter health in the UK.