It’s a harsh reality, but even our choice of phone case or mattress may not be an easy one if we’re concerned with how we affect our environment. In this 5th installment of “We affect what goes in our watershed” (see posts on fertilizers, marine debris, petroleum, and pharmaceuticals), it’s all about PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic) chemicals and how they are a silent threat to many marine mammals, and other top predators in the sea. These toxic threats get processed into their blubber and vital organs by way of bioaccumulation (see image). Susan Shaw, Director of Marine Environmental Research Institute, recently published that the bioaccumluation of North Atlantic harbor seals and noted that “at very high exposures PBTs can impair a mammal’s immune system, making it less capable of fighting off deadly diseases”.
What are the sources of these toxins?
- Mattresses, upholstery foam, and the plastic casings for electronics
- From the air or washed down the drain from foam, plastic, or fabric slough off our beds, couches, curtains, and televisions
- Leaked from manufacturing plants, runoff from cropland, or leach out of landfills.
Positive news is that manufacturers and importers agreed in 2010 to a phase-out of materials using these substances in 2010, declaring that sales will completely be irradiated at the end of 2013. In the meantime, here’s a list from the Environmental Working Group on how to reduce the exposure of the chemicals in your home, also I found a list of PBTfree products for home construction and cars from INFORM that .
I guess the question is now, what are some things that we can do to remind our family, friends, and neighbors that what we put in our drains and local waterway matters to the entire ocean ecosystem?