Chemical dangers to air-breathing animals overlooked, researchers say

A new study in Science says regulators have overlooked the effects that thousands of chemicals could have on air-breathing organisms. Such as, for instance, people. In general, regulators study how chemicals accumulate in aquatic-based food chains; they look at how toxics dissolve in water and fat, but not at how easily they’re expelled from lungs. Canadian researchers say that’s a problemo: as many as a third of the roughly 12,000 chemicals under review in Canada could accumulate in air-breathing animals. The pesticide lindane, for example, doesn’t build up in fish — but researchers have found it in wolves that eat lichen-munching caribou. “About one third of all the commercial chemicals that are in use right now belong in this group of chemicals that are potentially biomagnifying,” says lead researcher Frank Gobas of British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University. “In Canada, it will be three to four thousand. And our list of chemicals is small compared to the list of chemicals in the U.S. and E.U.”