Contamination and toxic effects of persistent endocrine disrupters in marine mammals and birds

Mar Pollut Bull. 2002;45(1-12):69-77. doi: 10.1016/s0025-326x(02)00175-3.


In recent years, several species of marine mammals and birds have been affected by uncommon diseases and unusual mortalities. While several possible causative factors have been attributed for these events, a prominent suspect is exposure to man-made toxic contaminants. Particularly, some of these man-made chemicals can disrupt normal endocrine physiology in animals. At CMES, our studies focus on exposure and toxic effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, particularly organochlorines, in higher trophic level wildlife. Endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as organochlorine insecticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, organotins etc. are found in tissues of a wide variety of wildlife. Extremely high concentrations have been found in animals afflicted with diseases and/or victims of mass mortalities. Elevated contamination by organochlorines has been found in open sea animals such as cetaceans and albatrosses, which seemed to be attributable to their low capacity to metabolize toxic persistent contaminants. Significant correlations between biochemical parameters (serum hormone concentrations and cytochrome P450 enzyme activities) and residues of endocrine disrupting chemicals were found in some species of marine animals, which indicates that these chemicals may impose toxic effects in animals even at the current levels of exposure. In general, water birds and marine mammals accumulated the dioxin-like compounds with much higher concentrations than humans, implying higher risk from exposure in wildlife. The future issues of endocrine disrupting chemicals in humans and wildlife will have to be focused in developing countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Birds*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / drug effects
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / pharmacology
  • Developing Countries*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Food Chain
  • Insecticides / adverse effects
  • Insecticides / pharmacokinetics
  • Mammals*
  • Organotin Compounds / adverse effects
  • Organotin Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / adverse effects*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / pharmacokinetics


  • Insecticides
  • Organotin Compounds
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls