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POPs, Earwax and environmental forensics?

POPs, Earwax and environmental forensics?

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Environmental forensics is the application of scientific methods used to identify the origin and timing of a contaminant release. Continuous passive collection of POPs over decades of time provides a timeline that can be used to date contaminant episodes and releases. Whale ear wax just happens to provide just that…

Whales are the largest mammals on earth can travel very large distances as part of their migratory pathway and can live a long time. This makes them very good sentinel species for monitoring contaminants in the environment. Scientists have estimated whale ages (for those found dead of course) based on the layers of the earwax plugs of the animals. It has been estimated that blue whales live on average between 80 and 90 years. These earwax plugs are lipophilic (fat-like) deposits that accumulate each year. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are also lipophilic and with exposure, will accumulate in fatty deposits of animals. Therefore, as whales swim their migration patterns, earwax in those whales is documenting the POPs that the whale has been exposed to.

To read more about how this is related to environmental forensics, visit this link to my guest blog at @ELSenviron.

BY Court Sandau Services

About the Author

Court Sandau

Court is the President and owner of Chemistry Matters – a niche environmental consulting firm which specializes in geoforensics, environmental forensics, biomonitoring, and arson investigations. As an international speaker and expert chemist, Court is often called upon to provide his expert services in oil & gas investigations and litigious chemistry issues.

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