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      Chemical Contamination of Green Turtle ( Chelonia mydas) Eggs in Peninsular Malaysia: Implications for Conservation and Public Health

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          Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)—such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)—and heavy metals have been reported in sea turtles at various stages of their life cycle. These chemicals can disrupt development and function of wildlife. Furthermore, in areas such as Peninsular Malaysia, where the human consumption of sea turtle eggs is prevalent, egg contamination may also have public health implications.


          In the present study we investigated conservation and human health risks associated with the chemical contamination of green turtle ( Chelonia mydas) eggs in Peninsular Malaysia.


          Fifty-five C. mydas eggs were collected from markets in Peninsular Malaysia and analyzed for POPs and heavy metals. We conducted screening risk assessments (SRAs) and calculated the percent of acceptable daily intake (ADI) for POPs and metals to assess conservation and human health risks associated with egg contamination.


          C. mydas eggs were available in 9 of the 33 markets visited. These eggs came from seven nesting areas from as far away as Borneo Malaysia. SRAs indicated a significant risk to embryonic development associated with the observed arsenic concentrations. Furthermore, the concentrations of coplanar PCBs represented 3 300 times the ADI values set by the World Health Organization.


          The concentrations of POPs and heavy metals reported in C. mydas eggs from markets in Peninsular Malaysia pose considerable risks to sea turtle conservation and human health.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Developmental effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in wildlife and humans.

          Large numbers and large quantities of endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been released into the environment since World War II. Many of these chemicals can disturb development of the endocrine system and of the organs that respond to endocrine signals in organisms indirectly exposed during prenatal and/or early postnatal life; effects of exposure during development are permanent and irreversible. The risk to the developing organism can also stem from direct exposure of the offspring after birth or hatching. In addition, transgenerational exposure can result from the exposure of the mother to a chemical at any time throughout her life before producing offspring due to persistence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in body fat, which is mobilized during egg laying or pregnancy and lactation. Mechanisms underlying the disruption of the development of vital systems, such as the endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems, are discussed with reference to wildlife, laboratory animals, and humans.
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            Endocrine disrupting pesticides: implications for risk assessment.

            Endocrine disrupting (ED) chemicals are compounds that alter the normal functioning of the endocrine system, potentially causing disease or deformity in organisms and their offspring. Pesticides are used widely to kill unwanted organisms in crops, public areas, homes and gardens and medicinally to kill parasites. Many are proven or suspected to be EDs. Ancient physiological similarities between different vertebrate groups suggest that disorders observed in wildlife may indicate risks to humans. This makes accurate risk assessment and effective legislation difficult. In this paper, the hazardous properties of pesticides which are known to have ED properties are reviewed in order to assess the implications for risk assessment. As well as data on sources of exposure in the United Kingdom (UK) an assessment of the evidence on the health effects of ED pesticides is also included. In total, 127 have been identified from the literature and their effects and modes of action are listed in this paper. Using the UK as a case study, the types and quantities of pesticides used, and their methods of application are assessed, along with their potential pathways to humans. In the UK reliable data are available only for agricultural use, so non-agricultural routes of pesticide exposure have been poorly quantified. The exposure of people resident in or visiting rural areas could also have been grossly under-estimated. Material links between ED pesticide use and specific illnesses or deformities are complicated by the multifactorial nature of disease, which can be affected by factors such as diet. Despite these difficulties, a large body of evidence has accumulated linking specific conditions to ED pesticides in wildlife and humans. A more precautionary approach to the use of ED pesticides, especially for non-essential purposes is proposed.
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              Human health implications of environmental contaminants in Arctic Canada: A review.

               U Gill,  H Kuhnlein,  G Bondy (2005)
              The objectives of this paper are to: assess the impact of exposure to current levels of environmental contaminants in the Canadian Arctic on human health; identify the data and knowledge gaps that need to be filled by future human health research and monitoring; examine how these issues have changed since our first assessment [Van Oostdam, J., Gilman, A., Dewailly, E., Usher, P., Wheatley, B., Kuhnlein, H. et al., 1999. Human health implications of environmental contaminants in Arctic Canada: a review. Sci Total Environ 230, 1-82]. The primary exposure pathway for contaminants for various organochlorines (OCs) and toxic metals is through the traditional northern diet. Exposures tend to be higher in the eastern than the western Canadian Arctic. In recent dietary surveys among five Inuit regions, mean intakes by 20- to 40-year-old adults in Baffin, Kivalliq and Inuvialuit communities exceeded the provisional tolerable daily intakes (pTDIs) for the OCs, chlordane and toxaphene. The most recent findings in NWT and Nunavut indicate that almost half of the blood samples from Inuit mothers exceeded the level of concern value of 5 microg/L for PCBs, but none exceeded the action level of 100 microg/L. For Dene/Métis and Caucasians of the Northwest Territories exposure to OCs are mostly below this level of concern. Based on the exceedances of the pTDI and of various blood guidelines, mercury and to a lesser extent lead (from the use of lead shot in hunting game) are also concerns among Arctic peoples. The developing foetus is likely to be more sensitive to the effects of OCs and metals than adults, and is the age groups of greatest risk in the Arctic. Studies of infant development in Nunavik have linked deficits in immune function, an increase in childhood respiratory infections and birth weight to prenatal exposure to OCs. Balancing the risks and benefits of a diet of country foods is very difficult. The nutritional benefits of country food and its contribution to the total diet are substantial. Country food contributes significantly more protein, iron and zinc to the diets of consumers than southern/market foods. The increase in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease has been linked to a shift away from a country food diet and a less active lifestyle. These foods are an integral component of good health among Aboriginal peoples. The social, cultural, spiritual, nutritional and economic benefits of these foods must be considered in concert with the risks of exposure to environmental contaminants through their exposure. Consequently, the contamination of country food raises problems which go far beyond the usual confines of public health and cannot be resolved simply by risk-based health advisories or food substitutions alone. All decisions should involve the community and consider many aspects of socio-cultural stability to arrive at a decision that will be the most protective and least detrimental to the communities.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
                September 2009
                29 May 2009
                : 117
                : 9
                : 1397-1401
                [1 ] Griffith School of Environment and Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
                [2 ] Queensland Health Scientific Services, Queensland Government, Coopers Plains, Queensland, Australia
                [3 ] School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
                [4 ] Turtle and Marine Ecosystems Centre, Department of Fisheries Malaysia, Rantau Abang, Terengganu, Malaysia
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to J.P. van de Merwe, Centre for Marine Environmental Research and Innovative Technology, Room B1705, Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: 852-3442-6504. Fax: 852-2194-2281. E-mail: jpvanders@ .

                Current address: School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia.


                Current address: Marine Park Department of Malaysia, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Federal Government Administration Centre, Putrajaya, Malaysia.

                The authors declare they have no competing financial interests.

                This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original DOI.

                Public health

                heavy metals, c. mydas, persistent organic pollutants, human health, risk assessments


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