New threat to turtles in Great Barrier Reef could pose same problems to local sea life

Honolulu, HI — A discovery made along the Great Barrier Reef is causing concern here in Hawaii.

The University of Queensland led a study that checked the blood of sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef and compared it to turtles far from human development. Researchers found hundreds of thousands of different chemicals present in the turtles. Including heart and gout medications, pesticides, herbicides, even metals and lubricants.

After a devastating coral die-off, campaigners in Australia had been expecting the Great Barrier Reef to slip onto UNESCO’s “List of World Heritage in Danger.” However, the World Heritage Committee opted not to include it during its annual meeting in Poland.

Experts say it’s a reminder to be mindful of what you put down your sink and toilets, or even spray on your farms.

“For pharmaceuticals, what we do take into our body, not all of that compound and not all of those types of compounds get modified or changed within our body. We actually excrete those out into our toilets. Then, where that water and the sediments go, is to either our septic tanks or to the sewage treatment plants.” said Jennifer Lynch, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

On Oahu, wastewater is delivered to nine different treatment plants across the island. Experts say turtles here are equally at risk of the same chemical exposure.

“Any turtle that is foraging or drinking sea water in the areas where these outfalls might be could be exposed to these compounds.” said Lynch.

Chemical exposure has been linked to stress and other effects in wildlife, along with inflammation and liver dysfunction that were found in some of the turtles. Lynch warns, it’s not just turtles that are at risk – but the entire food chain.

“There’s no difference between a sea turtle that’s swimming off shore of Oahu or the Great Barrier Reef than the corals that are there, the fish that are there, the marine mammals, the seabirds that are diving to eat the fish.” said Lynch.

That’s why she stresses the importance of being aware of the chemicals humans put into the environment and the impact it can make.

“If you’re not going to take the medicines that you have in your medicine cabinet, please don’t flush them down the toilet. That’s just a direct route right into our coastal waters.” said Lynch.

Instead, Lynch suggests using a Take Back recycling program at your local pharmacy. There, they’ll take any used or unwanted drugs.