According to the report, Clean Baltic within REACH?, 31kg of PCBs accumulated in the fish caught from the Baltic Sea every year from the late 1980’s to the 1990’s, and almost certainly ended up on people’s plates.

It cites a 1995 warning from the Swedish authorities recommending that women of childbearing age limit their consumption of Baltic herring and salmon because of the contamination with toxic substances.

The report goes on to reveal that several fish species, such as Atlantic salmon, sea trout, cod and turbot, have shown signs of reproductive problems in recent decades, and that the level of brominated flame retardants (PDBEs) in the Baltic Sea herring is 50 times higher than in the Atlantic.

Similarly high levels of PDBE are found in Baltic top predators such as seals, guillemots and sea-eagles.

“Baltic species are thoroughly contaminated with chemicals,” said Dr. Ninja Reineke, Senior Policy Officer at WWF Detox Campaign. “This is not just a burden of the past but a major ongoing problem.”

The problem is being highlighted again to reinforce the potential to limit the chemical exposure of wildlife through the REACH proposals, currently being debated by the European Parliament. WWF is campaigning to make sure that the proposals are not watered down by the demands of industry.

“The existing EU chemicals regulation is obviously not able to provide sufficient protection, but the debate about a new EU chemicals policy gives hope for a clean Baltic,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Director of WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. “REACH is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have safer chemicals and a healthier future for wildlife and people. New markets for safer products and increased trust should make it good news for the chemical industry too.”

By David Hopkins

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