Chemical pollution and the ocean

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Date of Original Version



Chemicals of anthropogenic (human-made) origin are transported throughout the atmosphere and down rivers and streams, eventually ending up in the world's coastal and open oceans. This chemical pollution enters marine food webs, and humans are exposed primarily through seafood consumption. The fate of several legacy and emerging chemicals of concern (including mercury, PCBs, DDT, PFAS, and current use pesticides) are discussed. Given their divergent properties, these pollutants have different pathways of transport in the biosphere and entry into food webs. The adverse effects of these pollutants on human health are well documented and have led to regulatory actions, including fish consumption advisories. The banning of production and use of several chemicals, and the emission abatement of others [e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, and two priority per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs)], have resulted in measurable decreases in their concentrations in the oceans. However, anthropogenic mercury appears to be increasing. Moreover, the fate of these ocean chemicals in the environment is being altered by changes in the environment associated with the climate, particularly in the Arctic region.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Oceans and Human Health: Opportunities and Impacts