By John Bacon
4 May 2017

(USA TODAY) – A killer whale found dead on the Scottish island of Tiree had one of the highest levels of PCB pollution ever recorded, scientists say.

Lulu, well known to researchers as one of the last surviving whales in the waters around Britain, died after becoming entangled in fishing rope in January 2016. The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme and the University of Aberdeen conducted an in-depth investigation of Lulu's carcass and were shocked by the findings. The headline on its website called the killer whale the "most contaminated on the planet."

Veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow said studies have shown that killer whale populations can have very high levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).

"The levels in this case are some of the highest we’ve ever seen," he said. "We know Lulu died from becoming entangled, but, given what is known about the toxic effects of PCBs, we have to consider (the contamination) could have been affecting her health and reproductive fitness."

Alex Costidis, right, coordinator with the Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Response team, and Kristy Phillips, necropsy manager, center, measure the length of a cut on a juvenile humpback whale before performing a necropsy at Craney Island in Portsmouth, Va. Photo: The' N. Pham / The Virginian-Pilot

Analysis of Lulu’s blubber revealed PCB concentrations 100 times higher than the accepted toxicity threshold for marine mammals, the stranding scheme reports. High PCB levels are linked to poor health, impaired immune function, increased susceptibility to cancers and infertility.

Once PCBs get into the marine environment, they accumulate through food chains and are difficult if not impossible to remove, Brownlow said. [more]

Killer whale Lulu found with extreme levels of PCBs, may be 'the most contaminated on planet'



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