SOURCE: Vision Media

Vision Media

December 29, 2009 03:02 ET

Science and Environment: Chemical Pollutants Found in Marine Life -- Interviews Marine Biologist Eric Montie About Chemical Pollutants Found in the Brains of Marine Mammals

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - December 29, 2009) - Eric Montie is a research associate specializing in marine sensory biology at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science. The lead author of a study published in the August-September 2009 issue of the journal "Environmental Pollution," Montie spoke to about the implications of his team's findings with regard to chemical pollutants such as flame retardants, DDT and PCBs found in the brains of stranded marine mammals.

In this exclusive science and environment interview with, Montie notes that PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl, a class of organic compounds) and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, synthetic pesticides) are found ubiquitously throughout the marine environment. Because these chemicals do not break down, they accumulate in the fatty blubber layer of marine mammals and can be passed from one generation to the next through mother's milk. For this reason they are still found prominently in marine mammals even though the chemicals were banned in the U.S. during the 1970s after Rachel Carson's controversial 1962 book "Silent Spring" raised concern about the long-term effects of DDT and other pesticides.

Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, Carson did not call for a complete ban on pesticides. "It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used," she wrote. "I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge." (For more about Rachel Carson, see her biography "A Voice That Broke the Silence.")

Far from emerging as a political activist, Montie does not make a judgment about pesticide use and whether there are viable alternatives. However he does caution that checks and balances are necessary to determine whether new chemicals entering the market (and thereby the environment) may have harmful effects.

Filling this necessary role as science and environment "Watchdogs of the Sea," Montie and his colleagues measure these effects and report their findings in the hope that society and culture may become less chemically dependent and more interested in using green chemicals.

For the full interview and for Montie's fascinating discussion of his team's findings, see Eric Montie: Watchdogs of the Sea at

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