Toxic Chemicals and Wildlife
As growing evidence makes clear, toxic chemicals are threatening many species:

Seal and dolphin populations in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas have been seriously affected by major disease outbreaks, with chemicals at the potential culprit. Similar outbreaks occurring in US waters, the west coast of Africa and elsewhere;

Male alligators in Florida's Lake Apopka, have visible external genitalia abnormalities, and have difficulty reproducing, with recent studies revealing similar problems statewide;

Whales in all of the world's oceans carry PCBs/dioxins and other contaminants at concentrations which cause developmental defects in humans;

Bald eagles and white-tailed sea eagles in industrialized regions that depend on fish have difficulty reproducing;

Albatrosses nesting on remote Midway Island in the Northern Pacific and polar bears on Kogsoya Island, high about the Arctic Circle in Norway's Svalbarb archipelago, are carrying synthetic chemicals at levels of concern;

Endangered beluga whales in the mouth of Canada's St. Lawrence River carry levels of PCBs that would qualify as hazardous waste under Canadian law;

In 1996, 20,000 Swainson's hawks overwintering in Argentina were killed by the pesticide monocrotophos;

Male fish in the UK and US are producing egg-yolk material at levels that only females should be producing.
Contamination by toxic chemicals is the common thread that links these geographically-dispersed populations. These chemicals pose a hazard to wildlife populations worldwide and may be affecting human reproduction and susceptibility to disease. We know they are affecting intelligence and behavior. While we cannot reverse the effects that some chemicals have already had on ecosystems, wildlife and humans, we can and must heed the warnings from the damage already demonstrated.

Toxic Chemical Facts

Below are some facts concerning toxic chemicals and their effect on the environment. If you know of other important toxic chemical related facts that we could include, please send them to toxics@wwfus.org.

In the last 50 years more than 75,000 chemicals have been developed and introduced into the environment. There is very little effective national or international control of the manmade chemicals in current use.

In this century, several hundred billion pounds of pesticides have been produced and released into the global environment. Nearly 5 billion pounds of DDT, alone, have been applied both indoors and out since it was introduced in 1939, and DDT is only one of nearly 600 pesticides currently registered for use in the world.... from "Our Children's Toxic Legacy: How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides, by John Wargo (Second Edition, 1998).

As we approach the 21st century, an additional 5-6 billion pounds of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, and other biocides are added to the world's environment each year, with roughly one-quarter of this amount released or sold in the U.S. from "Our Children's Toxic Legacy: How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides, by John Wargo (Second Edition, 1998).

The United States is a major producer and exporter of pesticides. According to US Customs documents, a total of 687,601,508 pounds of pesticide products were exported in 1996, an average rate of 936 tons per day. Although some of these pesticides are identical to ones sold in the US, many are not. Pesticides that EPA has judged too dangerous for domestic use, as well as pesticides never evaluated by EPA, are routinely shipped from US ports to other countries. (Global Pesticide Campaigner, Volume 8, Number 2, June 1998 - Pesticide Action Network.)

Every year approximately 20,000 people, mostly in Third World countries, die as a result of direct pesticide poisoning, according to the World Health Organization.

60% of herbicides (by poundage) used in the US are endocrine disruptors.

60 million birds are killed annually by legal pesticide use in the US.

Fifty percent of California school children attend classes within a mile of industrial plants that release toxic chemicals, according to a report by the DC-based Environmental Working Group and the Sierra Club.

Every day, approximately 1 million American children age 5 and under are exposed to levels of neurotoxic pesticides in food that exceed EPA safety standards, according to a new analysis based entirely on federal data by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

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Toxic Chemicals and Wildlife