Chemical Pollution by Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) & Heavy Metals Threaten Sea Turtles
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Chemical pollutants introduced into the water through human activity have a detrimental impact on the sea turtles. There are inorganic pollutants such as heavy metals and there are organic pollutants, known as Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, due to the fact that they are resistant to environmental degradation and build up in the ecosystem rather than breaking down. POPs include pesticides, solvents and industrial chemicals. As turtles are generally at the top of the food chain, with limited natural predators, the levels of POPs in turtles can act as an indicator of the levels of these chemicals in the water in general. For turtles, the chemicals they consume simply accumulate and can have negative impacts on their health and the population levels.

Our research into the effect of heavy metals and POPs on turtle health is carried out by taking blood samples from the turtles in order to determine the levels of different chemicals in their bodies. We are then able to compare this to the general health of the turtles and determine links between the levels of artificial chemicals and the health issues. This research can be used to prove the link between POPs and the ill effects they can cause, such as endocrine system disruption. Some POPs are already banned by the United Nations’ Stockholm Convention and we believe that if we are able to bring to the attention of the general public the harmful impact of those which are still widely used, we will be able to further prohibit the use of these toxic chemicals. As part of the food chain, this is also relevant for humans in that the food we are consuming from the ocean also contains these POPs. Studies on how they impact the turtles could help us tighten environmental policies and prevent these toxins entering the waters.