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Banned contaminants can persist in environment for decades

July 16, 2015

Banned contaminants can persist in environment for decades

Estuaries, where rivers meet the sea, are home to a unique mix of plant and animal communities. Some of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, estuaries are critical to the development and maintenance of a range of aquatic species.

Yet these vital ecosystems are under threat from human pollution, exposing the organisms living within to chemicals including metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — once used to reduce the risk of fire in electrical systems — and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can infiltrate the environment via the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels and oil spills.

These contaminants, which accumulate in the sediment at the very bottom of the water, reduce water quality and may pose risks to aquatic organisms due to their toxic, mutagenic and, in some cases, carcinogenic properties.

To guard against these threats, the European Commission has developed two directives that require the assessment of chemical status in water: the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Read more at Science for Environment Policy.
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