Ariel Rubissow-Okamoto’s article “Beyond the Blubber,” based on interviews with SFEI Senior Scientist Rebecca Sutton and NIST Investigator John Kucklick, provides the scientists’ perspective on a just-completed RMP study that searched Bay biota for unknown contaminants. Using a cutting edge technique called non-targeted analysis, Dr. Kucklick interrogated Bay harbor seal blubber and mussel samples in a very open-ended way, searching for unexpected fat-soluble, chlorine- and bromine-rich compounds that might be accumulating in wildlife.
“The good news is that no surprising new bad actors turned up. This means we don’t have to pivot and run after a whole new set of chemicals we didn’t expect,” says Sutton. While the study turned up a few new chemicals not previously identified in Bay wildlife, and for which toxicity is largely unknown, most of the Bay chemical contamination was from high priority contaminants that the RMP already monitors, or closely related compounds. This suggests that many of the highest priority persistent chlorinated and brominated chemicals have already been identified, with key contaminants regularly monitored.
According to the scientists, an important next step would be to extend this type of non-targeted analysis to explore water-soluble contaminants in the Bay.
The RMP (Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay) has developed a fact sheet with the study results.
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A cutting edge analysis identifies low levels of five unmonitored compounds in wildlife of San Francisco Bay. Bay mussel and harbor seal samples were tested for previously unmonitored contaminants using a non-targeted analysis that screens mainly for long-lived, fat-soluble, chlorine and bromine-rich chemicals. The samples contained five contaminants not previously identified in Bay wildlife, and for which toxicity is largely unknown. Most of the Bay chemical contamination was from high priority contaminants that the RMP already monitors, or closely related compounds.