Scientists have found clear evidence that whales are absorbing high levels of toxic heavy metals, with cadmium found in the brains of pilot whales which washed up in Scotland. Chemists at the University of Aberdeen said they had found cadmium in all the organs of adult long-finned pilot whales which stranded in 2012, including their brain.

The research shows for the first time that cadmium – known to pass into the brains of infant and unborn whales – had also passed across the so-called blood-brain barrier in adult whales. They said their findings also suggested that mercury concentrations could be increasing high enough in the seas “to lead to additional toxic stress in the long-lived marine mammals”, with higher concentrations increasing with age.

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