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Flame Retardants And Pesticides Make Lousy Fish Food In The Columbia River


Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey—lots of scientists—have been studying how contaminants work their way through the food web of the Columbia River. We’re talking PCBs, flame retardants, pesticides, toulene—nasty chemicals known as endocrine disrupting compounds. Using a foodweb model, the researchers tested insects, fish that eat the insects, osprey that eat the fish and invertebrates that live in the river’s sediments and dine on the leftovers.

The study results are not in, but scientists Elena Nilsen and Jennifer Morace shared some of their observations this week. For instance, when they cut open some suckers, the fish they studied, they discovered low sperm motility, a sign that some of those EDCs may have damaged the suckers’ endocrine systems.

The researchers have been trying to pinpoint a single chemical or a suite of chemicals that could be causing such problems, says Matthew Mesa, a scientist at the Columbia River Research Lab in Cook, Washington.

Far better to hear it from the scientist than me, so check out Nilsen and Morace as they explain their project in this video.

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