Orcas exposed to exhaust that's at 5 times L.A. freeway levels, study finds
Killer whales do not have the respiratory filters that humans have.
March 4th, 2011
11:16 AM ET

Orcas exposed to exhaust that's at 5 times L.A. freeway levels, study finds

Whale-watching tours off Victoria, British Columbia, may be exposing the area's killer whales to carbon monoxide emissions five times higher than those found on Los Angeles freeways, a local zoologist says.

Cara Lachmuth told the Victoria Times-Colonist that her two-year study of the effects of vehicle traffic patterns and atmospheric conditions on the local population of 87 orcas found the exhaust could harm the health of the whales.

"We're right at the threshold of where you would expect to see health effects," Lachmuth told the newspaper.

The nature of the ocean keeps the pollutants close to the surface of the water, she said, where the orcas breathe it into a respiratory system that doesn't have the filtering abilities of a human system, such as sinuses.

"It's because when you're out on the water, there's an inversion because the ocean is so cold, and in the summer the air is a lot warmer - the CO is sticking right at that interface, and it's not moving vertically at all," Lachmuth is quoted as saying.

Lachmuth said the whales are harmed by pollutant levels as low as 39% of that which would harm humans, the report said.

"For a one-hour exposure to average-case whale-watching conditions, we calculated the southern resident killer whales receive doses of carbon monoxide that are at the threshold of adverse health effects," the Times-Colonist quotes Lachmuth's study as saying.

The animals may be exposed as much as 12 hours a day during peak season, according to the report. And because the whales must hold their breath for extended periods as they dive below the surface, the harmful effects of exhaust may be made worse.

Lachmuth's study was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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Filed under: Animals • Canada • Whales • World
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Extremophil

    The exhaust "could" harm the health of the whales. Uh huh...and they "could" get struck by lightning, too.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bart in Omaha

    Why is science constantly attacked by conservatives? Oh, yeah, they do not believe in it. It seems that every scientific report that comes out is a personal assault to them that has to be shouted down. Sad/pathetic.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Galileo Galilei

      Oh, don't worry about science. I'm pretty sure science can defend itself.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoS

      No one is attacking science. They are attacking this article, which does not show any scientific evidence or conclusions. The only thing this article offers up is conjecture. If you want science, get off CNN and read the actual study.

      March 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nav

    My solution...report them whales to Sarah Palin – she'll make sure they're 'taken good care of' and land in her office or lunch! Why do we need whales anyways???

    March 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sick of Lies

    Thank you Mobee, I couldn't have said it better.

    March 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Morbo

    Whales give Morbo gas.

    March 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. thomas johnson

    troll detector! i forgot about it. thanks sos. seriously. i seem to have lost my sense of political humor over the last 10 years:)

    March 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Shamoo

    Serves them right..driving around in their custom gas guzzling Hummers... .

    March 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jamie

    I hate when non-scientists criticize scientific findings. The findings may not be correct, but that is for the scientific community to decide, not CNN readers!

    March 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SAM

    So what is it CALLED,Underwater PASSIVE SMOKE TOO ? You see how they LIE about PASSIVE SMOKE and SMOKING...Its all the CARS,Trucks,Jets,Buses and all the GREED PERIOD

    March 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pharmb184

    Very nice site!

    March 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
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