Living on Earth – Arctic Gender Imbalance

November 23, 2007 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

I know several of you are taking Reproductive Biology this semester so I thought I would pass this along:

“In certain villages in northern Greenland something is completely out of whack—only girls are being born. These reports from villages near the U.S. Air Force base in Thule are now being explored by scientists.”

This quote comes from the Sept 21, 2007 episode of NPR’s Living on Earth. If you would like to read a transcript of the show or listen to the audio or find links to the scientists and their study, go to Arctic Gender Imbalance (located in the archives section).

The problem is currently understood as a case of hormone-mimic molecules, in this case PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) mimicking the effect of estrogen. PCBs were manufactured and used in the industrial world until they were banned back in the 70’s. They decompose very slowly in the environment and are lipophilic. This means they can migrate around the globe, penetrate the food chain, and get magnified in long food chains, like those in the Arctic food web.

An excellent book in the Reed library on chemical contamination of the Arctic and Arctic food webs is Silent snow: the slow poisoning of the Artic by Marla Cone (TD190.5 .C66 2005)

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