Call to ban gender-bending ship paint

A toxic chemical contained in ship paint is contaminating marine life from shellfish to tuna, an environmental NGO has said, calling on the international shipping community meeting in London this week to outlaw the substance.

Tributylin, a paint used to stop shellfish and other marine life from sticking to ship hulls, pollutes sea water and the marine food chain and is of particular concern because of its endocrine-disrupting properties. The chemical causes sex change in dog whelks as well as accumulating to high levels in tuna, porpoises and other creatures.

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has called on the International Marine Organisation, the UN body uniting the international shipping community, to outlaw tributylin as its members met in London this week.

So far only 17 of the IMO’s 166 member countries have ratified legislation that forbids the use of the toxic substance, including six island states but excluding Britain.

“This is a scandal the world should be ashamed of,” said Dr Simon Walmsley, Head of WWF-UK’s Marine Programme.

“Forty years after TBT’s negative impacts were first identified and five years after the legislation to ban it was agreed TBT is still used, indiscriminately polluting global marine life and our food chain.”

“This is the most toxic chemical ever deliberately released into the marine environment and there is no excuse for using it,” he said.

Tribulytin will become illegal under EU law from 2008, when its use on EU-based vessels will be outlawed as well as the entry of ships treated with tribulytin into EU waters.

Goska Romanowicz

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