A recent study published in the journal GeoHealth has found that chemicals from cleaning products, cosmetics, and plastics are making their way into the bodies of bottlenose dolphin in Florida.
The researchers discovered evidence of exposure to chemical compounds called phthalates in over 70 percent of dolphins in Florida. This astonishing discovery is the first time these chemicals have been documented to be found in wild marine mammals.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals added to plastic products and packaging to make them more flexible and durable. As well, they are used in products such as paint, nail polish, shampoo, soaps, perfumes and many more.
The researchers came across the data by testing the urine of 17 dolphins in Sarasota Bay between 2016 and 2017 for phthalates and their metabolites. The chemical was detected in 12 of the dolphins’ urine.
“We are looking for metabolites. These are indicators that the dolphins have been exposed somewhere in their environment and that the body has started to process them,” lead author Leslie Hart, a public health professor at the College of Charleston, said in a statement.
“These chemicals can enter marine waters from urban runoff and agricultural or industrial emissions, but we also know that there is a lot of plastic pollution in the environment.”
Few studies have taken place thus far to look at the impact chemicals such as phthalates have on marine animals and their habitat so the findings are not exactly a surprise but they are extremely troubling. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently states that the effects of low-level exposure are “unknown”, although they highlight that research has linked phthalates to fertility problems in mammals. A number of studies have also demonstrated how phthalates can affect levels of sex hormones and other hormones by stimulating or inhibiting the endocrine system. Although, once again, more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions are reached.