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Anthropogenic pollutants: a threat to ecosystem sustainability





Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Nov 27;364(1534):3391-401.


Anthropogenic pollutants: a threat to ecosystem sustainability?


Rhind SM. Macaulay Institute, , Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK.



Pollutants, including synthetic organic materials and heavy metals, are known to adversely affect physiological systems in all animal species studied to date. While many individual chemicals can perturb normal functions, the combined actions of multiple pollutants are of particular concern because they can exert effects even when each individual chemical is present at concentrations too low to be individually effective. The biological effects of pollutants differ greatly between species reflecting differences in the pattern of exposure, routes of uptake, metabolism following uptake, rates of accumulation and sensitivity of the target organs. Thus, understanding of the effects of pollutants on wildlife and ecosystems will require detailed study of many different species, representing a wide range of taxa. However, such studies can be informed by knowledge obtained in more controlled conditions which may indicate likely mechanisms of action and suitable endpoint measurements. Responses may be exacerbated by interactions between the effects of pollutants and environmental stressors, such as under-nutrition or osmotic stresses and so changes in such variables associated with climatic changes may exacerbate physiological responses to pollutant burdens.


PMID: 19833650 [PubMed - in process]









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  • It is heartening to see research in the whole range of medical and natural sciences are starting to recognise that additive and synergistic effects of toxins such as synthetic chemicals and heavy metals acting together in small amounts are as significant a problem (if not more so) as high concentrations of single chemicals. Traditional toxicology as naively only considered the latter but there now seems to be a new recognition of multiple low-level exposures impacting on human and animal health and the ecosystem as a whole.

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