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Polar Bears With Options
There's a sudden surge in hermaphroditic bears in the Arctic, writes David Usborne in the Independent. Contrary to the old Woody Allen bisexuality joke, this is not a good thing:

Wildlife researchers have found new evidence that Arctic polar bears, already gravely threatened by the melting of their habitat because of global warming, are being poisoned by chemical compounds commonly used in Europe and North America to reduce the flammability of household furnishings like sofas, clothing and carpets.

A team of scientists from Canada, Alaska, Denmark and Norway is sounding the alarm about the flame retardants, known as polybrominated diphenyls, or PBDEs, saying that significant deposits have recently been found in the fatty tissues of polar bears, especially in eastern Greenland and Norway's Svalbard islands.

Studies are still being carried out on what impact the chemicals might be having on the bears, but tests on laboratory animals such as mice indicate that their effects can be considerable, attacking the sex and thyroid glands, motor skills and brain function.

There is also evidence that compounds similar to the PBDEs have contributed to a surprisingly high rate of hermaphroditism in polar bears. About one in 50 female bears on Svalbard has both male and female sex organs, a phenomenon scientists link directly to the effects of pollution.

"The Arctic is now a chemical sink," declared Colin Butfield, a campaign leader for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which last month indicated that killer whales in the Arctic were also suffering from elevated levels of contamination with fire retardants as well as other man-made compounds. "Chemicals from products that we use in our homes every day are contaminating Arctic wildlife."

Posted by aalkon at January 10, 2006 8:21 AM

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That's freaky. And you wanna know about chemicals? Last summer I got some bug spray with DEET in it, marketed as being the safest bug spray for children. I had recently painted a picnic table with outdoor paint, and somehow the cap on the bug spray got loose, the bottle tipped over and the next day when I came out to clean up, the paint on my table had turned to a puddle of blistery jelly. And we spray that on our skin! Ewwww!

Posted by: Little Shiva at January 9, 2006 11:59 PM

I worked for a citrus grower once. You'd be appalled at the chemical use in America today - but not by farmers, in the home! You are allowed to possess far more horrible things than my old boss can use in the field.

You don't want to know about the MTBE in your gasoline, or the antibacterial in your hand and body soaps, or caffeine - all of which are in your river water today. Where does your water plant draw from?

Posted by: Radwaste at January 10, 2006 2:25 AM

This is all pretty scary until you realize that people are living longer and longer. Life expectancy increases annually in most of the world. Hard to reconcile the two.

Posted by: Rojak at January 10, 2006 6:36 PM

just don't spray any DEET on a hermaphroditic polar bears. i hear that'll shorten your life expectancy significantly.

as far as global warming goes, well, it's -20 up here, and it's been another mild winter so far in north pole, alaska. personally, right now i don't mind so much. just don't tell the bears i said that.

Posted by: g*mart at January 10, 2006 10:57 PM

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