How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World

Deep in the Mariana Trench, at depths lower than the Rockies are high, rests a tin of reduced-sodium Spam. NOAA scientists caught sight of it last year near the mouth of the Mariana’s Sirena Deep. It isn’t an isolated incursion, but it was nevertheless startling, the sight of those timeless golden letters bright against the deep ocean bottom.

Shortly after came news from another team of scientists who had found in the Mariana an innovation less familiar than shelf-stable meat, but far more significant.

In the bodies of deep-dwelling creatures were found traces of industrial chemicals responsible for the rise of modern America—polychlorinated biphenyls. PCBs had been detected in Hirondellea gigas, tiny shrimp-like amphipods scooped up by deepwater trawlers.

artwork: How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, trees became something of a meme in the field of organic chemistry.

Results from the expedition, led by Newcastle University’s hadal-zone expert Alan Jamieson, were preliminary released last year and then published in February. PCBs have been found the world over—from the bed of the Hudson River to the fat of polar bears roaming the high Arctic—but never before in the creatures of the extreme deep, a bioregion about which science […]

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How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World
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How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World
Worse than the Spam in the Marianas Trench: PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) found in Hirondellea gigas, tiny amphipods scooped up by deepwater trawlers. This thoughtful piece in The Atlantic illuminates an issue likely to affect the global population.
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The Atlantic
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