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Pacific whales shows evidence of pollution

Lubbock, Texas -- U.S. researchers say they've found evidence of exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides in Pacific Ocean-dwelling sperm whales.

Researchers from Texas Tech University tested tissues from whales from all five Pacific regions for DDT, the fungicide hexachlorobenzene, and 30 types of polychlorinated biphenyls, known to cause endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity, a university release said Wednesday.

"Our findings provide a unique baseline for global assessment of pollution exposures and sensitivity in the sperm whale, a globally distributed and threatened species," Celine Godard-Codding, an assistant professor at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, said.

Whales were tested in five regions of the Pacific: the Gulf of California, Mexico; the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Pacific waters between the Galapagos Islands and Kiribati (Pacific Crossing); Kiribati; and Papua New Guinea.

"Nothing of this scope has been done for an ocean-wide level," Godard-Codding said.

Sperm whales are important sentinels of ocean health, she said, as they bioaccumulate and biomagnify fat-soluble pollutants because they are massive and long-lived.

Sperm whales can weigh up to 50 tons and live up to 70 years.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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