Better monitoring of low level pollutants needed to protect marine life

A new study of pollutants in Mediterranean coastal waters assesses the risks posed by difficult-to-detect chemicals present at low concentrations. Coastal monitoring programmes may be required to control discharges of some of these pollutants, which, at current levels, could be harmful to sensitive marine creatures.

Organic micropollutants encompass a wide range of carbon-containing chemicals, which, until recently, were hard to detect in the environment. Powerful new methods have now made it possible to detect several different micropollutants at very low concentrations, down to nanograms per litre of water.

According to the researchers, their study suggests that the area of the Catalan coast between Roses and Valencia in north-eastern Spain is a ‘hotspot’ for organic micropollutants. They measured concentrations of 51 different compounds in rivers, wastewater and seawater in the region. In seawater, alkylphenols, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate compounds were at levels high enough to pose a significant risk to some marine species.

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Source: Sánchez-Avila, J., Tauler, R. & Lacorte, S. (2012). Organic micropollutants in coastal waters from NW Mediterranean Sea: Sources distribution and potential risk. Environment International. 46: 50-62. Doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.04.013.

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