Scientists have warned about the impact of plastic pollution in the most pristine corners of the world after discovering chemical additives in birds’ eggs in the High Arctic.
Eggs laid by northern fulmars on Prince Leopold Island in the Canadian Arctic tested positive for hormone-disrupting phthalates, a family of chemicals that are added to plastics to keep them flexible. It is the first time the additives have been found in Arctic birds’ eggs.
The contaminants are thought to have leached from plastic debris that the birds ingested while hunting for fish, squid and shrimp in the Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage. The birds spend most of their lives feeding at sea, returning to their nests only to breed.
Northern fulmars have an oily fluid in their stomachs, which they projectile-vomit at invaders that threaten their nests. Scientists believe the phthalates found their way into the fluid, and from there passed into the bloodstream and the eggs that females were producing.
Jennifer Provencher at the Canadian Wildlife Service said it was worrying to find the additives in the eggs of birds in such a pristine environment. The northern fulmars in the Arctic tend to come across far less plastic than other birds.
Photo: Andreas Trepte/Wikimedia Commons
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