Banned DDT and PCBs Still Threaten Critically Endangered California Condors

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      Despite being banned since the 1970s, DDT and PCBs are still affecting wildlife today, particularly the California condor, a critically endangered species. The condors feed on dead marine life along the California coast that often contain higher amounts of contaminants compared to marine life elsewhere.

      Scientists at San Diego State University (SDSU) and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA), in collaboration with Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), conducted research and found that dead marine life along California’s coast had about seven times more DDT and 3.5 times as much PCBs compared to dead marine life near Baja California, Mexico.

      The findings, published in Environmental Science & Technology, showed that California condors living in coastal areas of the state had higher levels of contaminants in their blood compared to inland condors, which do not feed on marine life. DDT levels in coastal condors were about seven times higher than inland condors, and PCBs were about 40 times higher.

      The researchers further found over 400 contaminants in total in the marine life samples, which are a common food source for the condors. “This kind of broad survey of contaminants shows us that the condors and the marine mammals have a multitude of contaminants that have never really been examined before, especially in detail,” explained study co-author Nathan Dodder, an analytical chemist and research scientist in the School of Public Health at SDSU and the SDSU Research Foundation. “The non-targeted contaminant analysis we used not only identifies known legacy contaminants, but has the added advantage of identifying novel contaminants, in addition to known but less-examined contaminants that are not routinely screened.”

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