What We Learned About Aquatic Canaries

The WCC February talk by Edward Archer focused on how we can use biological markers to give us information about the health of our waterways – the so-called aquatic canaries.

In an area that is chronically short of water we cannot afford to pollute any of it and these indicators can give us early warning when there is a problem.

Of particular concern are POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) which are fat soluble and remain in the food chain for lengthy periods. They are found in a surprising number of household products such as cleaning agents and even toothpaste.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are pervasive. These derive from industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, personal care products and many other sources.

Everything is toxic if the level is high enough. However, serious disruption of endocrine function can occur in vertebrates at levels lower than toxic levels.

Abnormalities in tadpole development have been linked to chemicals that affect hormonal pathways controlling their reproduction, development and metabolism. Water pollutants that cause endocrine disruption in aquatic animals will also affect human health as the hormones act in the same way. So aberrations in frog development are an early warning that these endocrine disruptors may be present in water systems and appropriate steps can be taken.



The message is that all the chemicals we use on a daily basis eventually end up in our water systems and can have serious health consequences. Through awareness people can take responsibility to minimize their use of chemicals in everyday products.