Persistent contaminants, also known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain.
Persistent contaminants in Puget Sound: Overcoming a toxic legacy
The Lower Duwamish Waterway in Puget Sound was designated a Superfund cleanup site in 2001. Its legacy of contamination predates World War II and the waterway continues to pollute Puget Sound through stormwater runoff.
Why is so much pollution found in disadvantaged communities?
Researchers are looking at the forces of discrimination that worsen the environmental health risks for some communities.
Diverse populations benefit from targeted efforts to improve environmental justice
Years of struggle have led to reduced pollution and a stronger sense of community in the Duwamish Valley. As cleanup efforts there continue, environmental justice has come front and center for the area's diverse populations.
Revised toxic-cleanup rules will increase focus on environmental justice
An update to state rules regarding the cleanup of toxic pollution is expected to bring more attention to factors like race, ethnicity and income within populations that live near contaminated sites.
Ecosystem models expand our understanding of the Salish Sea
Scientists are using computer models to address complex issues in the Salish Sea like the rise of harmful algal blooms and the movement of toxic PCBs. LiveOcean, Atlantis and the Salish Sea Model are three systems that are changing the game for ecologists and other researchers.
Air contaminants, such as mercury and PCBs, undermine the health of Puget Sound
High levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals are showing up in seemingly remote and pristine parts of the Puget Sound watershed, the result of atmospheric deposition. Scientists talk about a “dome” of pollution hanging over urban areas, leading to a never-ending cycle of persistent compounds working their way through the air, onto the land and into the water.
Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy
The Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy is a recovery plan that will guide funding and activities to reduce the impacts of toxics contaminants on marine fish and the humans that consume them. A final version of the plan was published in May 2021.
2018 Salish Sea toxics monitoring synthesis: A selection of research
A 2019 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
PCBs in fish remain steady while other toxics decline
A new study shows a surprising decline in some toxic chemicals in Puget Sound fish, while levels of PCBs increased in some cases. Scientists say the study shows that banning toxic chemicals can work, but old contaminants remain a challenge as they continue to wash into Puget Sound.
2016 Salish Sea Toxics Monitoring Review: A Selection of Research
A 2017 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is an independent program established by state and federal statute to monitor environmental conditions in Puget Sound.
Concerns rise over rogue chemicals in the environment
Drugs like Prozac and cocaine have been showing up in the region’s salmon. But these are just some of the potentially thousands of different man-made chemicals that escape into the Salish Sea every day, from pharmaceuticals to industrial compounds. Now the race is on to identify which ones pose the greatest dangers.
Efforts to reduce fire hazards over a half century ago have left an unintended trail of persistent environmental contaminants from flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs. Bans and substitutes are still evolving.
New law will increase testing of chemicals
New federal legislation, approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. Congress in December 2015 and signed into law by President Obama in June 2016, is designed to make sure that people and the environment are not harmed by new and old chemicals on the market.
A review of Puget Sound marine and nearshore grant program results, Part 2
A July 2016 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute summarizes and reviews 10 EPA-funded projects focusing on Puget Sound's marine and nearshore environments. The projects were conducted between 2011-2015 with support from the EPA's National Estuary Program. The report is an analysis of findings on invasive species, toxics, oil spill, and integrated risk assessment.
New theory rethinks spread of PCBs and other toxics in Puget Sound
Researchers are proposing a shift in thinking about how some of the region’s most damaging pollutants enter Puget Sound species like herring, salmon and orcas.
Suspended marine pollutants more likely to enter food web
Researchers are studying how persistent pollutants such as PCBs avoid settling to the bottom of Puget Sound. This article continues our coverage of new theories on the spread of toxic chemicals in the food web.
Citizens now the leading cause of toxics in Puget Sound
New research presented at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference shows that some of the greatest dangers to Puget Sound marine life come from our common, everyday activities. These pervasive sources of pollution are so woven into our lives that they are almost invisible to us, but it’s becoming impossible to ignore their effects.
Report: Potential effects of PBDEs on Puget Sound and Southern Resident Killer Whales
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 and the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Region have released a report describing results from a series of technical workgroups about the potential effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on Puget Sound and Southern Resident killer whales.
Toxics research that changed Puget Sound history
In the 1970s and 1980s, research from a division of NOAA's Montlake Lab suddenly changed the way scientists and the public viewed the health of Puget Sound. Their discovery of industrial toxics in the region's sediment-dwelling fish led to the creation of two Superfund sites, and new approaches to ecosystem management across the Sound. The man at the forefront of this research was Dr. Donald Malins, featured here as part of the Puget Sound Voices series.