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"New" POPs in marine mammals in Nordic Arctic and NE Atlantic areas during three decades

Marine mammals hold a special position in the hearts of people inhabiting Nordic Arctic areas and in coastal communities around the North Atlantic Ocean as they are an essential part of the diet and traditional life-style. However, marine mammals are in a particularly vulnerable position as regards environmental pollutants, because of the large fat stores in their bodies which serve as a "magnet" to a large number of persistent and toxic pollutants. A Nordic Council of Ministers supported collaboration between Norway, Denmark/Greenland, Faroe Island, Iceland and Sweden set out to look for possible trends in "new" contaminants in marine mammals in Nordic Arctic waters. The "new" contaminants in focus are the brominated flame retardants including the PBDEs, methoxylated PBDEs, perfluorinated compounds including the PFOS family, and polychlorinated naphthalenes. In addition, a subset of the samples was analysed for brominated dioxins and dibenzofurans. The marine mammals studied were fin whale, minke whale, pilot whale, white-sided dolphins, harbour porpoise, ringed seal and hooded seal. The study aims at giving a wide scope of the presence of these "new" contaminants in marine mammals in recent time and going back to the 1980s using samples from specimen banks.

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Nordic Council of Ministers

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Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, consist of 2 aromatic rings bound together by oxygen and substituted with up to ten bromine atoms. The theoretical number of possible congeners is 209 similar to PCBs and the same IUPAC numbering is used to distinguish the different congeners. The structure of the most abundant PBDEs in commercial PBDE mixtures and the environment are given in Figure 1. The first discovery of PBDE in the environment was made already in 1981 when PBDEs were identified in eel, pike, bream and sea trout from the Viskan-Klosterfjorden, Gothenburg, Sweden (Andersson et al., 1981). But it was not until the middle of the 1990s that PBDE have attracted more attention with the discovery of PBDEs in both humans (Meironyte et al., 1999) and marine mammals (de Boer et al., 1998; Lindström et al., 1999) confirming that several PBDEs tend to bioaccumulate. Compared to occupational related exposure which seems to be dominated by hepta- to decaBDE, lower brominated diphenyl ethers like tetra- to hexaBDEs dominate the exposure via food (Sjödin, 2000). PBDEs are relatively stable in the environment but are known to be subjected to debromination under special conditions or in the laboratory environment (Sánchez-Prado et al., 2006; Gaul et al., 2006). In addition, during photolysis conditions or thermal decompositions of PBDE, the formation of polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and furans has been observed (Hagberg et al., 2009). Mainly three technical PBDE-mixtures have been used of which two, the Penta- and the OctaBDE-mixtures, have been voluntarily removed or banned from use in the EU and other parts of the world. The DecaBDE formulation was the last of these three mixtures banned from the Swedish market in the beginning of 2007 and from the total European market in the middle of 2008 (Kemmlein et al., 2009).