Investigation of organic contaminants in the blubber of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) first stranded on the coast of Taiwan

Jing O. Cheng, Pei Ling Wang, Li Chin Chou, Chig Wei Chang, Hao Ven Wang, Wei Cheng Yang, Fung Chi Ko

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This study presents a comprehensive assessment of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the blubber of a stranded blue whale found on the coast of Taiwan. The analysis included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), Hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The whale exhibited evident signs of emaciation, including low body weight, reduced blubber fat content, and thin blubber thickness. The dominant fatty acid type detected in the blubber was short-chain monounsaturated fatty acids (SC-MUFA), known to aid in thermoregulation. Stable isotope ratios indicated that the blue whale occupied a lower trophic position compared to a fin whale, suggesting its proximity to krill habitats in the Southern Ocean for feeding. The average concentrations of DDTs (1089.2 ± 4.7 ng/g lw; ΣDDT) and PCBs (1057.1 ± 49.8 ng/g lw) in the blubber were almost one order of magnitude higher than PAHs (41.7 ± 10.0 ng/g lw), HCB (70.6 ± 2. ng/g lw), and PBDEs (7.2 ± 1.2 ng/g lw). Pollutant concentrations in this individual blue whale were comparable to levels found in Norway, higher than those found in Chile, and notably lower than those found in Canada and Mexico. Calculating the biomagnification factor (BMF) for the POPs from krill (Euphausia superba) to the blue whale revealed significant bioaccumulation of pollutants in this particular whale. Additional research is imperative to achieve a thorough comprehension of bioaccumulation of POPs and their potential toxicological impacts on whale health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23638-23646
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Apr

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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