OLI Grant: Occurrence and biological activity of natural and anthropogenic organohalogen compounds in the Gulf of Maine


Grant Funded: 2002

Proposed Research

Halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCs) are well known contaminants of marine environments. Two recent developments have forced a re-evaluation of the relative impact of these and other synthetic compounds on the health of the marine environment.

First, the environmental concentrations of new classes of halogenated pollutants such as the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and tetra-bromobisphenol A (TBBPA) are increasing.

Second, a variety of halogenated compounds that appear to be natural products have been identified recently in marine animals and some of these are able to undergo bioaccumulation and biomagnification in marine food webs.

Currently, there are major gaps in our understanding of the environmental occurrence, sources, and biological activities of these emerging compounds. The overall objective of the proposed research is to provide the first comparative assessment of natural and anthropogenic halogenated organic compounds in the Gulf of Maine region. The specific objectives are:

  1. To measure the concentrations of these compounds in the blubber of stranded cetaceans and pinnipeds and in fish from Massachusetts Bay.
  2. To assess the source of these compounds (natural or anthropogenic) by analysis of radiocarbon.
  3. To assess the potential biological activities of these compounds through the development and application of recombinant cell culture bioassays.
The proposed research will contribute to a better understanding of the impact of natural and anthropogenic chemicals on the health of marine ecosystems and will provide new tools for assessing the biological activities of such chemicals in aquatic species.