Persistent pollutants, persistent threats

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Science  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1388-1389
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9075

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Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemical substances that persist in the environment, accumulate in the food web, and pose a risk of adverse effects in humans and wildlife (1). Rachel Carson first identified the potentially devastating effect of POPs on wildlife in the early 1960s (2). In the late 1960s, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in high concentrations in wildlife in Sweden (3). After PCB use and manufacture were banned in 1979 (US), 1981 (UK), and 1987 (EU), levels started to decline slowly in all biota around the world (46). In 2004, the Stockholm Convention committed more than 90 signatory countries to phasing out or eliminating large stocks or other sources of POPs, including PCBs (1). Yet, PCBs continue to threaten the survival of marine predators. Concerted efforts are thus still needed to mitigate PCB pollution.