Bottlenose dolphins are being exposed to chemical compounds added to many common cleaning products, cosmetics, personal care products and plastics, according to a new study in GeoHealth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The new research found evidence of exposure to these chemical compounds, called phthalates, in 71 percent of dolphins tested in Sarasota Bay, Florida during 2016 and 2017. Previous studies detected phthalate metabolites in the blubber or skin of a few individual marine mammals, but the new study is the first to document the additives in the urine of wild marine mammals.
Some phthalates have been linked to hormonal, metabolic and reproductive problems in humans, including low sperm count and abnormal development of reproductive organs. The study’s authors do not know what health impacts phthalate compounds may have on dolphins, but the presence of byproducts of the chemicals in the animals’ urine indicates they have remained in the body long enough to process them.