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Chemical Waste Discovered in Animals Living on Deepest Trenches of the Ocean

Jun 21, 2016 09:08 PM EDT
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The extent that man-made pollution is seeping into the ocean's waters has reached a whole new level as recent studies have shown that organisms living up to 10,000 metres deep have been contaminated by chemicals.

In a deep-ocean exploration conference in Shanghai on the 8th of June, deep-ocean researcher Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen revealed that his team had found alarming levels of man-made organic pollutants in amphipods (shrimp-like crustaceans). These deep-sea creatures were captured from two deep-ocean trenches, the Mariana Trench located in the western Pacific Ocean (also known as the world's deepest trench) and the Kermadec Trench off the coast of New Zealand in two international expeditions in 2014.

Identified as an important carbon sink and vital in regulating climate and global temperature, deep-ocean trenches such as the Mariana and Kermadec are also prone to higher levels of pollutants washed from large factory waste as they have nowhere else to go but deep down and will eventually build up. High chemical concentrations of the carbon-based compound POPs (persistent organic pollutants) used to make plastics and flame retardants were found in both trenches, although one had particularly higher concentrations than the other for both compounds.

One of the compounds found in the crustaceans was polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been identified as a carcinogen and production had been banned in numerous countries for almost more than four decades.

This "fascinating" discovery, says deep-sea microbiologist Douglas Barlett of the San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography, shows that the "trenches are not that remote" as first though of, and that "the world is connected."

Scientists are conducting more studies with regard to this discovery to see the overlying effect that the pollutants will have on the general carbon cycle of the Earth as carbon-converting microbes are adversely affected by these chemical compounds.

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