//
you're reading...

Chemistry

Out of sight, but not out of mind: human created chemicals persist deep in the Arctic Ocean  

Article: Carrizo et al. Spatial distributions of DDTs in the Water Masses of the Arctic Ocean. Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b01369

Smart and stupid at the same time?

Humans seem to be capable of extraordinary genius, along with profound stupidity; weirdly enough, as I write this I’m thinking of apps like Tinder or Pokemon Go. Both apps required serious computer science genius to create, yet somehow app users get themselves into ridiculously silly/stupid situations, i.e. these people or these guys. On a more serious note, this same concept applies to human chemical production. It’s taken decades of research to identify and synthesize specific structures that appear in consumer products all around us. Yet, some of these extraordinary chemical creations were created with acute short-sightedness; some are extremely persistent or toxic, and we have ended up creating chemicals that are harmful to ourselves and other creatures.

One such traitorous chemical is DDT; this compound was created for use as an insecticide.

DDT, pictured as a basic molecule, was created for use as a pesticide, yet was banned following demonstrated harmful effects in birds and aquatic animals. Image credit: Wikipedia

However, DDT has been found to be a carcinogen, and is highly toxic to a range of aquatic animals and birds. DDT was banned during the 70’s and 80s around the globe as a result. However, DDT and its breakdown products still persist globally, even after decades of bans and restricted use. Dr. Daniel Carrizo from Stockhom University and fellow researchers recently highlighted just how persistent DDT is by identifying the compound at great depths in the Arctic Ocean.

The research

Map of the Arctic. Samples were taken across all major basins and at various depths. Image credit: https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

Carrizo and his crew used water samples taken from across the Arctic basin at various depths. The use of water samples for this analysis was a welcome choice, as most of the studies looking at DDT in the Arctic have relied on air samples from the region rather than water. The samples were analyzed for DDT and 5 of its breakdown products using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

This analysis provided the researchers with concentrations of DDT and its breakdown products associated with different depths, locations, and water masses. The researchers used the derived concentrations to create estimates of the mass of DDT in each water mass as well as an estimate for the mass of DDT  in water and sediment across the whole Arctic region.

The results

The researchers found DDT and its breakdown products across all water masses and at all depths; DDT and/or its associated breakdown products were appreciable at depths up to 2500 m. They also found that concentrations of a DDT breakdown product, DDE, increased with depth.

Carrizo and his team found that DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, increased in concentration at greater depths. Image credit: Carrizo et al., in press, ACS Publications

The researchers also noted a spatial trend, suggesting that regions closer to Europe and in the Atlantic region of the Arctic had elevated concentrations of sum DDT. Based on their observed DDT water concentrations, they estimated that the Arctic Ocean contains about 53,000 kg of sum DDT (sum DDT = DDT + 5 breakdown products) in water and sediment reservoirs.

The relevance

Though few people actually live in the Arctic, the appreciable concentrations of DDT found in this water from across the region are still noteworthy. First of all, the finding of DDT at depth reinforces how persistent this compound is. It takes decades for material to travel to great depths, so its presence at depths up to 2500 meters suggests this chemical can persist for years in the ocean and continue to act in the environment during that time. The increased concentrations of DDE at depth also suggest that DDT is being broken down and transformed as the molecules age and are transported to depth. This transformation process is important, since understanding how DDT is degraded in the environment,may enable creation of better mitigation strategies to facilitate its breakdown, or creation of chemicals that are more readily broken down in the environment. Moreover, the prominence of DDT in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic suggests that northward flowing Atlantic currents like the Gulf Stream act as significant transporters of DDT. This highlights the interconnectivity of pollutant control; DDT put into the environment at low latitudes in the Atlantic basin could ostensibly be transported to the Arctic, meaning to reduce concentrations of DDT or other pollutants in the Arctic, global control of use is required.

Overall, the research significantly adds to our understanding of the distribution of DDT in the Arctic, and highlights that continued research is required to explore the concentrations of persistent chemicals at depths and in remote locations.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 1 year ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com