A toxic toilet paper chemical has been found in endangered killer whales

Southern resident killer whales They are an endangered group of famous black and white marine animals also known as orcas. A new study suggests that certain chemical pollutants may be involved in the decline of orcas.

A team led by researchers at the University of British Columbia has published a report The findings are in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in December.

Scientists analyzed the tissues of six resident killer whales in the south and six killer whales stranded along the coast of British Columbia between 2006 and 2018.

“They discovered that chemical pollutants are prevalent in killer whales, as a chemical often found in toilet paper is one of the most prevalent substances in the samples studied, accounting for 46 percent of the total pollutants identified.” University said In a statement last week.

The compound 4-nonylphenol (4NP) is associated with paper processing and is often used in the production of toilet paper. It’s included as a toxic substance in Canada It can affect the nervous system and cognitive function.

“It can seep into the ocean via sewage treatment plants and industrial runoff, where it is ingested by smaller organisms and travels up the food chain to reach top predators such as killer whales,” the university said.

The study is the first to find 4NP in killer whales. The researchers also found that 4NP was transferred from orca mothers to their fetuses, raising questions about how the chemical might affect fetal development.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the southern populations — found near British Columbia, Washington state and Oregon — only have 74 individuals, as of December 2020. They are Listed as an endangered species in both the United States and Canada. The Environmental Protection Agency cites ship impacts, decreased salmon availability and exposure to pollutants as threats to the survival of orcas.

The 4NP chemical is “Contaminant of emerging anxietyMeaning, it is neither well-studied nor well-regulated. The presence of the chemical in stranded whales suggests that it may have a broader impact on the marine environment and other animals. It could have implications for human health as well, since people eat the same thing. Salmon do whales.

The university said governments could help endangered whales by stopping the production of chemicals in their bodies and tackling sources of marine pollution.

“This research is a wake-up call,” he said. Juan Jose AlavaCo-author of the study. “Southern populations are vulnerable and pollutants could be contributing to their decline. We can’t wait to protect this species.”