Great Barrier Reef: Sea Turtles In Danger Of Dying From Human Pollutants

John Houck - Author

Jun. 4 2017, Updated 9:55 a.m. ET

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is teeming with marine life, but new research has found dangerous pollutants are infiltrating the sea creatures, specifically green turtles. While analyzing blood samples taken from turtles living near the reef, researchers from the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences were shocked to discover medications, herbicides, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals present within the animals.

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Test results identified several man-made substances, which likely have a detrimental impact on the health of the Great Barrier Reef turtles. The drugs allopurinol, a kidney stone treatment, and milrinone, used by patients with heart problems, were both found in the samples. Other compounds commonly used in cosmetics, adhesives, and household cleaners were also revealed. Of the more than 100 substances detected in the turtles’ blood, many had to be classified as unknown.

“The worrying thing is there are more chemicals we could not identify than chemicals we could,” said the study’s co-author Amy Heffernan, as cited by EcoWatch. “There is one new chemical registered for use every six seconds, so the libraries and the databases that we use to identify these chemicals just can’t keep up.”

The blood samples were taken from various turtles at multiple locations along a 1,400-mile stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. While the samples tested for different chemicals depending on the area of the reef where the turtles spent much of their time, all showed signs of human contaminants.

“Humans are putting a lot of chemicals into the environment and we don’t always know what they are and what effect they are having,” said Heffernan. “What you put down your sink, spray on your farms or release from industries ends up in the marine environment and in turtles in the Great Barrier Reef.”


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