Impact of chemical pollution on threatened marine mammals: A systematic review

Iris Schaap*, Larissa Buedenbender, Sarah Johann, Henner Hollert, Gulsah Dogruer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Marine mammals, due to their long life span, key position in the food web, and large lipid deposits, often face significant health risks from accumulating contaminants. This systematic review examines published literature on pollutant-induced adverse health effects in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listed marine mammal species. Thereby, identifying gaps in literature across different extinction risk categories, spatial distribution and climatic zones of studied habitats, commonly used methodologies, researched pollutants, and mechanisms from cellular to population levels. Our findings reveal a lower availability of exposure-effect data for higher extinction risk species (critically endangered 16%, endangered 15%, vulnerable 66%), highlighting the need for more research. For many threatened species in the Southern Hemisphere pollutant-effect relationships are not established. Non-destructively sampled tissues, like blood or skin, are commonly measured for exposure assessment. The most studied pollutants are POPs (31%), metals (30%), and pesticides (17%). Research on mixture toxicity is scarce while pollution-effect studies primarily focus on molecular and cellular levels. Bridging the gap between molecular data and higher-level effects is crucial, with computational approaches offering a high potential through in vitro to in vivo extrapolation using (toxico-)kinetic modelling. This could aid in population-level risk assessment for threatened marine mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132203
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2023


  • Conservation
  • Mechanistic toxicology
  • Metals
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Pesticides
  • Pollution-effect relationships


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of chemical pollution on threatened marine mammals: A systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this