Dolphins are having trouble reproducing according to a new study, and it’s because of industrial chemical pollution. Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB’s, which can last in an animal’s body for a lifetime because they are stored in fat, were commonly used in industrial equipment and paint over the past few decades. As the chemicals were released into waterways, they worked their way into dolphin’s bodies, and are now threatening future generations of harbor porpoises, since the chemicals can be passed down from the mother to offspring.

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Researchers were surprised that even though PCB’s were banned over 30 years ago, the chemical still remains at moderately high levels in harbor porpoises. The researchers, led by the Zoological Society of London, said that 20 percent of female porpoises in the UK harbor showed evidence of recent miscarriage, stillbirth or fetal death. Another 16.5 percent had tumors or infections, particularly on reproductive organs, which may have contributed to failure of the reproductive system.

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Compared to porpoises in less PCB-laden regions, this is a remarkably high rate of reproductive failure. The problem is generational because once babies nurse from their mother, the chemical is passed on and then continues to cause damage. Lead researcher Sinead Murphy said that UK harbor porpoises are part of a larger Northeast Atlantic population, and the research suggests that this could put the population at large at risk for added PCB exposure.

Via France 24

Lead image via Shutterstock, images via William Warby and Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith