Trace organic compounds in the marine environment
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Trace organic chemicals include a range of compounds which, due to a combination of their physico-chemical properties and toxicological implications, have been described as a serious threat to the biotic environment. A global treaty to regulate the manufacture and release of some of the most persistent trace chemicals has been promulgated and signed. The marine environment is an important sink for many trace chemicals, some of which accumulate in the marine food chain and in particular in marine mammals. With respect to the global distribution of trace organic chemicals, the levels of organohalogen compounds in the Southern Hemisphere are comparatively lower for a given environmental compartment and latitude compared to the Northern Hemisphere. A debate is currently evolving about the toxicity of alternative halogen substitutions such as bromine instead of chlorine and also of mixed halogen substitution. Recently a series of potentially natural bioaccumulative and persistent organohalogen chemicals have been found in marine mammals and turtles at levels in excess of those of anthropogenic trace organochlorines including PCBs and DDE. Little is known about the sources, behaviour and effects of natural trace organic chemicals. This manuscript presents an overview on the occurrence of trace organic chemicals in different compartments of the aquatic environment. Important knowledge gaps with regards to trace chemicals in the marine environment are presented.
Marine Pollution Bulletin