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)

    the whales like to do it! Or just disperse the nearby city and tell people to get lost because the whales have gotta breathe!

    March 4, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike, TX

      Well.. your name says it all.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • ps

      Time to ban whale watching! We humans do not deserve to be around these amazing animals!

      March 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnny

      This is funny. So what about if there is an ocean breeze. I think they should just take these environmentalist and feed them to Shamu. That would cut the planet's carbon footprint.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobee

      @ps. as extreme as it sounds I have a feeling that is what this study may be aimed at. You know, it may not be such a bad idea. Just the mere presence of vessels around these whales has likely changed their behavior. I am not so worried about their environmental health as projected by this study, but in their overall health as a thriving species. The less we interefere with nature, the more likely it will take care of itself.

      The only problem is... this represents the LEAST likely threat to the health of the species when you consider all the other environmental damage we do. If each individual would just USE COMMON SENSE in their everyday lives and THINK about the effects of their routine actions, we could make major improvements.

      March 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JJ

    Lots of "may" and "could" in this fluff article. Sounds like these scientists don't really KNOW much, and are extrapolating human attributes to animals that may be much smarter than a lot of humans....

    March 4, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • saresudog

      Why is it that every time an article about the environment is written, doubting Thomas idiots like you have to comment as if you know better or it's gotta be some kind of conspiracy? I swear common sense is dead and the selfish are taking over the world. Idiocracy here we come!

      March 4, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Sick of Lies

      @saresudog: This article is so poorly written and the assumptions made are SOOO ridiculous, that ANY one with common sense would criticize it.

      Crap like this totally diminishes any credibility other TRUE scientists might have on conservation issues, or can't you see that? Don't argue against the haters when they are right about this one!

      March 4, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • billy joe buttsecks

      Sarasudog must be from gay lib town San Fran right 'Sick of Lies'??? i bet she kills babies too!!!

      March 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeorgeFBush

      JJ's right, and since we don't KNOW that we aren't killing them, the correct thing to do is to make it illegal to operate a boat within a mile of any whale sighting. I would totally support such legislation, and make the penalties real too, as in prison time.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Albert911emt

      If you aren't a scientist, if you don't have the education, then who are you to critisize?

      March 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. billy joe buttsecks

    i think them whales need not complain! i pay my taxes and i'm a gun carrying republican with rights! down with socialist leftist killer whales. i'll show them "killer" when i pulls out my Barretta!!!

    March 4, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • thomas johnson

      not to say this artical is right, but, are you all scientists who have done the study for the past two years?. oh wait you are just gun toting extremists who threaten animals with no way to defend themselves. pull your barretta on someone who shoots back punk and leave the whales alone. Or are you just a loser who thinks he or she needs to over compensate for some issue you lack. Sick of lies, are you a scientist or do you just read articles? do you know anything about Terminal Air Contaminants? how much they weight? or do you know anything about physics or phisiology?

      March 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • billy joe buttsecks

      i know plenty about pysics and pysiology, the bible teaches me everything i ought to know about these subjects. nothin ya say will change my mind and only the good book and jesus can!!! you libs can't tell me what to think or say, i won't let ya invade my mind!!!

      March 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teddy

      billie joe you are my hero.. down with those dang liberal whales!

      March 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sick of Lies

      TJ. I have far more knowledge and eperience than you give me credit for. You cannot tell me that on an average day the CO level on the ocean or Sounds and Bays of the Northwest there is more man-produced CO than on an LA freeway. Have you ever been in both those places? Spending as much time on the ocean as i do, I am well aware of the air currents, wave action, as well as atmospheric conditions which affect pollutants, both heavy and light. Two diesel motors idling, do not produce enough CO or other polutants to be compared to the Freeway even if left running all day. Even in the areas where there are 5 or 6 boats working it is highly unlikel;y except for short periods in close confinement with little wind and calm seas.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jesus

    It's all Huckabee's fault!

    March 4, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike, TX

      I knew Jesus didn't like Mike Huckabee.... LOL

      March 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sick of Lies

    Give me a Break! I am into conservation, but these extremist views are NOT news. Ocean waves, almost continuous winds and relative few vessels in any area at any time completely blow her "scientific" assumptions "OUT OF THE WATER!" The whale would have to be swimming along inches behind a boat's exhaust to get the exposure she suggests.

    Doesn't anyone check their facts beforfe writing articles anymore?

    March 4, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • billy joe buttsecks

      Yeahhh!!! THis friggin "scientist" is a liar! Plain and simple!!! I doubt anything she does or says!! Where'd she get her degree, LIberal U.??? I say 'Sick of Lies' and me should be doin our own "sciencey" stuff and our own experiements. Ya know what we came up with already??? Ain't nothin wrong with them whales!!! Time to go watch some FOX news and sip mah Ovaltine!!! YEEEEAAA HAWWWW

      March 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sick of Lies

      No thanks BJ, I don't need to be associated with you or your kind. I am not Republican, I am not a Democrat. I am a pure and simple American with my own common sense and the ability to make up my own mind given the facts as I see them. I don't need Fox News to fill me full of lies, just as i don't need MSNBC to try to do the same.

      I am a 30-year veteran boat captain with a major college degree and a background in meteorology AND Marine Biology.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Freeman

    Just call Sarah Palin, she will shoot these whales and end the problem

    especially if you tell her that they are "Killer whales" 🙂

    March 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike Wiggins

    Orcas are affected by second-hand smoke!!! I can't wait for the pseudo-scientists to come to THAT conclusion!

    In all scientific seriousness, I don't discount this finding. My problem is that it seems to be a one-sample study. What I would like to see is the same study performed at at least 20 different locations throughout the world. 5 near major metropolitan centers like Vancouver, 5 near lesser cities, 5 near small towns/settlements and 5 in open ocean. If the amount of CO changes based on location, then, in my opinion, you have a valid study. But in this case there wasn't even a mention of taking blood samples (quite difficult, I realize) so the conclusions are just conjecture.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. john mercado

    Sick of Lies: Check your facts, then get back to us. You may have to spend a summer on a boat with carbon Monoxide detectors mounted on floats close to the water- will here from you next fall....OK!

    March 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sick of Lies

      Been there , done that. I spend in excess of 130 days per year on the ocean and have a background in Meteorology AND Marine Biology. Our "scientist"'s assumptions are only correct given no wind and calm seas and more than likely close to the vessels in the study. Whales are extremely sensitive and intelligent. Any extreme exposure would cause these whales to leave the area. Furthermore, when a person is subjected to CO poisoning they are treated in a hyperbaric chamber which increases the atmospheric pressure around the individual. This allows the CO to be processed by the body and flushed from the system. HMM, sounds kind of like diving deep in the ocean doesn't it? Now that is something I don't know a lot about, but it ssure makes sense doesn't it? Have they tested CO levels in their blood? Have they found sick whales? No reports of that. Perhaps THEY need to check some facts.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • bandit109

      Sick of Lies, if you actually have that background, then you should already know that you can't judge a scientific study based on the 1/2 page summary on cnn. Go and read the actual report in the Marine Pollution Bulletin and then you'll know the assumptions that were made and how this study was conducted.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sick of Lies

      Yes you are correct I should reasd the study first. However, I am commenting on the article, which is what the world will see. My personal knowledge of the issues allows me to feel comfortable that the article, as written and certainly as the headline goes (which is what most people will take away from the report) misrepresents the facts. In fact there are no conclusions even reported, just maybes. I stand behind my statement that bad reporting like this totally discredits EVERYONE in the scientific community.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • bandit109

      Ah, ok I thought you were arguing against the study, not this article. In that case, yes I agree with you that the media often distorts the scientific process by cherry picking certain articles and representing them as if that's the consensus of the entire community. In reality, this study will probably be challenged by many scientists, since it contradicts the current viewpoint that the emissions would not be harmful. Then, more studies will be conducted to see if the results are reproducible, and eventually we'll gain a better understanding.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobee

      Exactly. Unfortunately it is reported as FACT and people will read the headlines and take it as such. In the long run there will be more damage done to the credibility of environmental science.

      March 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DP

    Now, if it had been speculation not masquerading as a study that whales could be more sensitive to carbon monoxide given the specifics of the way they breathe, I'd've been intrigued. Here, I'm just not buying the "five times higher" than an LA freeway stuff.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • billy joe buttsecks

      Yeahh!!! Just cuz some self-proclaimed leftist 'scientist' says it just don't mean it to be true. God'll sort out these whales and that's good enough for me and 'DP"!!! I say they're prolly good eatin' anyways! i'll be first in line with DP right behind me!!!

      March 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Amber

    Clean burning biodiesel is the answer. That's why the San Fran ferries made the switch. The diesel fumes were harming the environment and the ferry workers. It's easy. Look it up people!

    March 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Wiggins

      I too am a believer that man should make every effort to not "pee in the pool", so to speak. But the "ferry" analogy just doesn't work, to me at least. That's because the SF ferries work WITHIN San Francisco Bay and not outside. Having the fumes affect the workers also doesn't work because they are on board, right next to the CO and, therefore, more likely to be affected. The whales, for the most part, are at LEAST 20 miles away. And, I believe, the trade winds in the Bay area are from the west thus making the whales that much less likely to be affected.

      So, while I applaud the changeover to biodiesel, it will only be beneficial to the ferry workers and the near-by environment and areas EAST of the city, which is a good thing. I don't think the orcas will be affected one way or the other.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. eric

    Are we finding dead or harmed whales? That said, it's known that oceans are sucking in the CO2, and there has to be a limit – it's "common sense". If all of that CO2 was ever released from the ocean all at once, we're all dead.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Billy Bob Crossburner

    Has nobody else figured out that Billy Joe Buttsecks (great name by the way) is being sarcastic? He's poking fun at extreme right wing conservatives. He's being a little hyperbolic, but not much. I get it Billy Joe, screw them Libs! Let's go fire our guns and beat our wives and then put makeup on 'em so the pastor don't see when he head to church.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • billy joe buttsecks

      i take serious OFFense to your name there BB! you burn the cross of which Jesus was staked to and you go down below, plain and simple!!! you need to read your bible everyday BB!! i only beat my wife one time and she deserved it that one time!!

      March 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Idiot

      Exactly! Two dimensional thinkers, the lot of them. Go BJ, go. And let me add, "Nuke the gay whales if you love Jesus!"

      March 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Debbie

    Lies lies and more lies.....

    March 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. YGTBSM....

    How did this person get funding for this study? Who sponsored the study? I think we should pay to relocate the Orcas to Oklahoma or give them all cozy homes in Sea World. What are the other studies this person or group has written? This type of crap trivalizes real environmental issues.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. thomas johnson

    i cant believe that people actually think like billy joe buttsecks, it seems to me you are just an agitator,getting the fire burning in peoples hearts to not think like you. good job. When you claim "leftist scientist" you sound like a tool. science is a repiticious study of all things, whereas leftist implies a political view. dum-dum give me gum-gum! this is what pops in my head when i think of people like minded with you. I bet you don't even have a barretta. Remember god will sort out all animals,including You. Every inch of control we strive for brings us that much farther from it.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoS

      Please tell me you don't think BJB is a legitimate commentor posting his actual viewpoints.

      If it's not obvious to you that he is trying to denigrate the people he is pretending to be (badly I might add) then you might want to switch your troll detector back on. They come in very handy on here.

      March 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
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