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TEACH Water Pollution in the Great Lakes

Common POPs

DDT was a manufactured chemical mainly used as a pesticide on agricultural crops. DDT attacks the nervous system, and many animals, such as birds, died as a result of widespread spraying on fields and trees. Because of the damage to wildlife and the potential harm to human health, DDT was banned in 1972 in the United States. However, the chemical still persists today in soil and water contamination and in the fatty tissues of fish, birds and other animals.

Dioxins are often formed during the chlorination process at paper mills and waste and drinking water treatment plants; there are also released into the air by solid waste and industrial incinerators. Dioxins, like DDT, accumulate in fatty tissues of animals, and have been linked to skin disease, liver damage and cancer in humans.

PCBs have various applications and are poisonous environmental pollutants, which tend to accumulate in animal tissues. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA, 1976) banned PCBs but, due to the longevity of PCBs, we're still feeling their effects today.

Mercury is a metal that is naturally found in the earth's crust. However, when mercury enters water it can be converted into methyl mercury, a poisonous substance that causes neurological problems and death in wildlife and humans. Mercury is often found in scientific instruments, such as thermometers.

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