Flight of the poisoned

Antarctic seabirds are accumulating dangerously high levels of toxic organic chemicals in their bodies, according to Nico van den Brink of the Institute for Forestry and Nature Research in Wageningen, the Netherlands. He says the culprit is pollution produced by industrial plants thousands of kilometres away. He focused in particular on hexachlorobenzene (HCB), which is released into the air from industrial incinerators and other plants. HCB can interfere with birds' ability to transport oxygen around their bodies. Van den Brink believes that HCB accumulates in cold parts of the world through a phenomenon known as the 'cold condenser' effect. Pollutants released in the warmer parts of the world remain as a vapour and rise to the upper atmosphere. Once they reach the poles, however, they condense and fall to Earth (New Scientis4 Vol 154, No 2084).

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