Fish Can Accumulate and Bring Toxic Pollution Straight to Your Mouth

Many pollutants are injected to the atmosphere and may have long-distant trajectories around the globe, e.g. particulate matter (PM), green-house gases (GHG), acidic oxides (sulphur and nitrogen), , volatile organic compounds (VOC), persistent organic pollutants or “polychlorinated biphenyls” PCBs, ozone, heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, …. ), radioactive pollutants. In addition to degradation of air-quality as is the case in big cities and heavily populated regions, the major part of these pollutants get washed out by rain and join the hydrosphere and thereby enter the aquatic systems, e.g. oceans, seas, rivers, lakes.

Faroe Islands have long old whaling tradition, pilot whales, and whaling is part of people’s culture and among the main sources of food. However, pilot whales have low levels of mercury and PCBs toxics. It is well known that mercury in high doses could cause severe brain damage, however at low or smaller doses over a long period of time can also cause damage to the body. 2000 children were tested for the effects of chronic low level mercury exposure. It has been found that such exposure affects baby’s brain causing deficits in development and feedback impacts on regulations of the heart.

Pilot whales have long-life span and by being highest up in the food chain, they also feed on other fish, they accumulate many pollutants PCBs and metal mercury and thereby whale meat carry toxic compounds. In this context, these small North Atlantic islands grapple with how to maintain a centuries-old tradition in the face of modern environmental and political circumstances.

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