Australian researchers identified a wide array of potentially harmful chemicals in turtles living near the Great Barrier Reef.
The findings were released as part of the Rivers to Reef to Turtles project conducted by the World Wildlife Federation of Australia.
Scientists from the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences — a partnership between the University of Queensland and Queensland Health — tested blood samples collected from green turtles at sites in Cleveland Bay, Upstart Bay and the Howicks islands off Australia's northeastern coast.
Turtles from the two more developed locations, in Cleveland Bay and Upstart Bay, showed evidence of pharmaceuticals, pesticides and industrial chemicals. Researchers also identified biomarkers that indicate inflammation and liver dysfunction in some turtles.
“What you put down your sink, spray on your farms, or release from industries ends up in the marine environment and in turtles in the Great Barrier Reef,” said University of Queensland chemist Amy Heffernan.
Scientists suggested that turtles could be used to help monitor how chemicals impact marine life in the increasingly vulnerable Great Barrier Reef.
The study also noted that some substances found in green turtles could not be identified, and that scientific databases are unable to keep up with the approximately 130 million registered chemicals — a list to which 15,000 new chemicals are added every day.
“Humans are putting a lot of chemicals into the environment and we don’t always know what they are and what effect they are having," Heffernan said. "We need to be conscious of that."