Super toxins

Climate change may be making toxins stronger, environmental chemists warned this month at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s annual meeting. Examples reported by, the website of the journal Nature, include:

As sea ice melts, more seawater will be exposed to the atmosphere, which could make it easier for toxins in arctic waters to enter the air.

The lethal concentration of copper decreases with temperature, so toxicity increases as it warms, noted aquatic toxicologist Marjorie Brooks. Meanwhile, a tiny freshwater crustacean was more sensitive to lead at higher temperatures, observed toxicology graduate student Jennifer Goss.

And as less snowfall makes for reduced stream flows, aquatic life could be harmed as they’re more exposed to ultraviolet light, said ecotoxicologist Will Clements.

These changes in climate may call for changes in scientific methods. Studies done at a single temperature for years now need to accommodate fluctuations.

“We have to have a fundamental change in the way we approach assessing risk of chemicals in the environment,” Dupont Corporation environmental toxicologist Ralph Stahl said in the Nature report.