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Environment: River otters in Illinois contaminated with chemicals that were banned decades ago

A new study found that river otters in Illinois are being exposed to dieldrin, DDE (a byproduct of DDT), PCBs and other chemicals banned decades ago. Photo courtesy Ivan Petrov.

A new study shows river otters in Illinois are being exposed to dieldrin, DDE (a byproduct of DDT), PCBs and other chemicals that were banned decades ago. Photo courtesy Ivan Petrov.

Study shows how long some pollutants can persist in nature

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s common knowledge that some of the most toxic chemical pollutants can persist in the environment for many years. A new study in Illinois shows that they can sometimes even linger for decades, as river otters in the region are being exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides that were banned in the U.S. in the 1970s and ’80s.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources collected 23 river otters between 2009 and 2011, after the animals were incidentally killed (hit by cars or accidentally caught in traps, for example).

The agency passed the carcasses along to researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey for an analysis, which found that average concentrations of one of the compounds they analyzed, dieldrin — an insecticide (and byproduct of the pesticide aldrin) that was used across the Midwest before it was banned in 1987 — exceeded those measured in eight river otters collected in Illinois from 1984 to 1989. Continue reading

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Cocktail of pharmaceuticals affecting basic stream health

Antihistimines are drying up rock-coating algae

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Research shows that pharmaceutical waste is affecting basic stream ecology.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Antihistimines used to treat allergies do more than dry up runny noses. Remnant traces of the pharmaceuticals, now commonly found in many streams and rivers, are having a significant effect on basic biological processes, with as-yet unknown impacts on aquatic life and water quality.

“Pharmaceutical pollution is now detected in waters throughout the world. Causes include aging infrastructure, sewage overflows, and agricultural runoff, said Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, lead author of a study that examined how common pharmaceuticals influenced similar-sized streams in New York, Maryland, and Indiana.

The study looked for traces of Caffeine, the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, the antidiabetic metformin, two antihistimines used to treat heartburn (cimetidine and ranitidine), and one antihistamine used to treat allergies (diphenhydramine). Continue reading

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