Plastics and Detergents May Contribute to Lobster Die-Offs
Waterborne chemicals leached from plastics and detergents, including bisphenol A (BPA), may have contributed to significant lobster die-offs in the waters of Long Island Sound over the last decade, researchers say. As many as half of the lobsters tested in areas where lobster populations have plunged showed high levels of alkylphenols, a group of chemicals derived from detergents, paints, and plastics, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut.
Those chemicals interfere with hormones crucial to the growth of young lobsters, doubling the time it takes for lobsters to molt their shells and create new hard shells, and making them more susceptible to disease, said Hans Laufer, a research professor in the university’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
The lobsters are consuming these chemicals with their food, including mollusks that filter the chemicals from the water. Lobster shell disease has caused a large drop in lobster populations since the late-1990s in the Sound, with the annual Connecticut lobster catch plummeting to about one-sixth of 1998 levels.
Aside from being a concern for the fisheries industry, Laufer also thinks that alkylphenol contamination is a serious threat to human health. About 90 percent of the U.S. population are also contaminated with alkylphenols, which in some cases — such as BPA — have been shown to affect human reproduction.