Subject: Pollution Study: Barnacle paint still ki (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 5 May 1998 15:18:29 -0400 (EDT)


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Date: Tue,  5 May 98 13:18:00 GMT 
Subject: Study: Barnacle paint still ki

Study: Barnacle paint still kills otter

   EAST LANSING, Mich., May 4 (UPI) -- A researcher says a toxic chemical
added to paint to keep barnacles off ship hulls may be killing sea
otters along the California coast.
   A study by Michigan State University's Kurunthachalam (kur-AHN'-thah-
CHA'-lam) Kannan links the chemical, TBT, to diseases that killed otters
from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.
   Kannan tells UPI the chemical also may be entering the coastal
Pacific Ocean food chain by leaching into the water from plastic pipes
in California buildings.
   TBT -- short for tributylin -- settles on the ocean floor, where otters
feed on mollusks and other shellfish.
   Kannan says each of the 40 otters studied had ingested TBT. Animals
with the highest concentrations in their livers, brains and other organs
died of diseases linked to weak immune systems. Others were killed by
sharks or gunshots.
   Although Kannan says "40 animals is not enough to say something
solidly" about the threat of TBT, he is convinced "it is causing
problems for animals in the food chain."
   Kannan made waves a decade ago when he discovered a link between TBT
and deadly diseases in bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean. That
prompted the government to ban its use in hull paint for small boats in
   But TBT is still allowed for ships and some international vessels
that ply U.S. waters. And a closely related compound is an ingredient in
plastic water pipes.
   Kannan says his study indicates the partial ban on TBT in hull paint
has not protected marine life from its deadly consequences.
   Kannan, who is working with the U.S. Geological Survey on the otter
project, hopes the latest data sparks more TBT studies. He says the
issue deserves as much attention as the well-known environmental poisons
DDT and PCBs.
   No one knows how long TBT lasts in the environment but Kannan
estimates it takes 10 years to degrade.
   Kannan examined organs from otters collected in California bays from
Montara Beach to Coal Oil Point. His study appears in the latest edition
of Environmental Science and Technology.