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Scientists find turtles on Great Barrier Reef are absorbing a cocktail of chemicals

Scientists find turtles on Great Barrier Reef are absorbing a cocktail of chemicals

TURTLES near urban and farming areas on the Great Barrier Reef are absorbing possibly thousands of chemicals.

Scientists trying to work out why more than 100 green turtles died in June and July 2012 at Upstart Bay near Ayr, took blood samples from 1131 animals, finding a range of chemicals associated with industry and agriculture.

They included cobalt, molybdenum and antimony and high levels of stress-related compounds that often are a sign of chemical exposure.

University of Queensland scientists think a ­combination of chemicals rather than one particular substance might be impacting the creatures.

These findings go to the heart of a five-year conservation campaign for better Reef care, which has argued that flows from farms, mines, industry and urban areas must be cut.

Turtles were also surveyed in the relatively pristine Howick Group of Islands as well as Upstart and Cleveland bays.

 University of Queensland Associate Professor Caroline Gaus said tests indicated turtles from Upstart Bay also had signs of systemic stress with markedly higher inflammatory responses.

“We have found indications of potentially thousands of chemicals in coastal turtles,” Prof Gaus said.

“The next step is to see if we can we find a correlation between turtle health and the complex mixture of chemicals they are exposed to in urban locations.”

The research has the potential to turn on its head a long-held theory that the ocean was so big that contaminants were diluted to such an extent that it remained a relatively healthy environment for marine creatures.

“People should be aware that many of the chemicals we flush down the toilet, apply to our gardens, spray on crops, or use in factories can end up in turtles and we don’t yet know how it is affecting them.”