Chemical Contamination in the Mediterranean: the case of swordfish | WWF

Chemical Contamination in the Mediterranean: the case of swordfish

Posted on
29 August 2006

For the first time WWF has detected the presence of brominated flame retardant chemicals in Mediterranean swordfish from the Italian coast. PBDE - or polybrominated diphenyl ethers - are a very persistent and bio-accumulative type of flame retardant previously used in computers, TVs and carpets. Despite most of them being banned in the EU, traces are still found in swordfish off the Mediterranean coast. This new evidence makes strengthening the proposed new EU chemicals law (REACH) all the more urgent.

This new WWF report, divided into two parts, aims at showing how chemicals are building up in the Mediterranean Sea and its wildlife.

The first part presents the results of new analytical investigations on Mediterranean swordfish (Xiphias gladius), carried out by the research group of Professor Focardi of the University of Siena, Italy. By analysing the presence of older (those already banned for decades such as DDT) but also newer chemical compounds in swordfish tissues, the present study makes a significant contribution to the existing scientific literature, which until now has mainly focused on already restricted compounds -such as polychlorinated pesticides or dioxins and dioxin-like compounds.

The second part reviews the most interesting scientific studies, concluding that contamination of Mediterranean wildlife is already a serious cause for concern. In fact, many persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals have been linked to possible serious health effects on wildlife, people and entire ecosystems, e.g. by altering sexual and neurological development, reproduction and immune systems.

Besides its ecological value, swordfish is also of high commercial interest, as it is widely consumed in many Mediterranean countries.
© Fulco Pratesi