The Effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Organochlorine Pesticides on Sea Turtles

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Second Advisor

Curtis Burney


The turn of the 20th century was an innovative time that created new technologies in the world. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBS) and organochlorine pesticides were created and used for various industrial and agricultural purposes. PCBS were used in electrical equipment, modern household machines and building material. PCBs are fire retardant and excellent insulators for equipment containing electronics. Pesticides were used for agricultural purposes and to protect humans from diseases, such as malaria. PCBs and organochlorine pesticides were banned in most modern nations; however they are still often used in non-industrialized countries. The past and present usages of these organic chemicals had caused a great concern for the fate of the environment. The chemicals have seeped, leaked and have been legally or illegally placed in landfills which ultimately contaminated the world’s air, soil, and water sources. The world’s oceans ecosystems and animals have been negatively affected by PCBs and organochlorine pesticides. These organic contaminants bioaccumulate in fatty tissues and organs, therefore species that are on the top of the food chain generally have a higher concentration than species of lower trophic levels. Sea turtles are species that have been negatively affected by PCBs and organochlorine pesticides due to their long-live and location on the food chain. PCBs and organochlorine pesticides have been found in sea turtle blood, tissue, muscle, and organs. It has also been found that sea turtles maternally pass organic compounds to their offspring. Not only does chemical contamination affect sea turtle health, it also alters human health. PCBs and organochlorine pesticides have caused cancer, disrupted immune systems, reproductive systems, endocrine systems, and affected neurological development in animals. Many Indo-Pacific nations and Latin American nations utilize sea turtles for food, supplies and cultural traditions. Reports have shown humans that consume sea turtles have become ill, or have died. To protect the fate of sea turtles and humans that consume them it is imperative to eliminate all usage of PCBs and organochlorine pesticides. It is also necessary, if possible, to locate the potential source of contamination and conduct the appropriate environmental clean-up methods. Eliminating organic pollutant’s usage and cleaning up previous contamination would aide in sea turtle survival. It is also necessary to manage current sea turtles populations to salvage what is left of the threatened or endangered species.

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