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Otsuchi, in northern Japan, is the focal point of the hand harpoon hunt which has claimed up to 15,000 Dall's porpoises in previous years.

In the most recent hunting seasons for which information is available, Japan allocated itself a quota of 13,493 Dall's porpoises in 2013/14, 12,928 in 2014/15 and 12,364 in 2015/16. The catch, however, has been significantly less than the quota for many years. In 2016, just over a thousand porpoises were killed.

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Seal #108, left, and a small pup named "Premie" swim up to the edge of their pool for their 3 p.m. feeding at the Marine Mammals of Maine rehabilitation center on Aug. 14. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Researchers think a mysterious die-off of seals along the Maine coast could be linked to chemical pollution, the Portland Press Herald reported Sunday.

More than 400 dead or stranded seals have washed up on the Maine coast so far this year, more than in any of the past seven years, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) statistics.

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Navy torpedo bomber spraying DDT just above the trees in Goldendale, WA in 1962. USDA Forest Service

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry Thursday found that mothers exposed to the banned pesticide DDT were nearly one-third more likely to have children who developed autism, Environmental Health News reported.

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The next time you go out for seafood, you might want to ask where the tuna was caught.

According to new research from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the muscle tissue of yellowfin tuna caught in the more industrialized areas of the northeast Pacific Ocean and northeast Atlantic Ocean can be as much as 36 times higher than in tuna caught in pristine waters of the West Pacific Ocean.

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Washington could have an ace up its sleeve in its major lawsuit against Monsanto over PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination throughout the state.

Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the primary manufacturer of PCBs, which was used for paints, electrical equipment and other products, from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979 due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can have adverse skin and liver effects in humans and can also linger in the environment for many decades.

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Risa Scott / RF Scott Imagery

The Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy released a trove of rediscovered and newly digitized chemical industry and regulatory agency documents Wednesday stretching back to the 1920s. The documents are available here.

Together, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment.

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This past May, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt raised some eyebrows when he issued a memorandum insisting he be personally involved in decisions regarding Superfund cleanups that cost $50 million or more.

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John Bowler, RSPB Tiree

By Carey Wedler

The Guardian reported last Tuesday that Lulu, the full-grown whale who died, "was a member of the UK's last resident pod and a postmortem also showed she had never produced a calf. The pollutants, called PCBs, are known to cause infertility and these latest findings add to strong evidence that the pod is doomed to extinction."

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Monsanto may be looking forward to turning a new leaf with its potential $66 billion mega-merger with Bayer AG, but the agrochemical giant just can't shake its notorious past as the primary manufacturer of highly toxic and banned substances called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that were once used for paints, electrical equipment and other products.

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Photo credit: Uwe Kils / Wikimedia Commons

English researchers have discovered an alarming amount of toxic pollution in the bodies of amphipods living in the deep sea trenches of the Pacific Ocean. The research team from Newcastle University, the James Hutton Institute and the University of Aberdeen caught and tested small crustaceans in the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, which reach about 30,000 feet deep.

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Monsanto is facing yet another lawsuit over its alleged negligent handling of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a banned and highly toxic group of chemicals that the company manufactured decades ago. But this time it's not another city suing the biotech giant—it's an entire state.

Highly toxic PCBs have been found throughout Washington state, with more than 600 suspected or confirmed contamination sites, including Wenatchee River.Flickr

Washington is suing Monsanto over widespread PCBs contamination, the first U.S. state to take such an action. Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, at a press conference in Seattle on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Washington is seeking damages on several grounds, including product liability for Monsanto's alleged failure to warn about the dangers of PCBs; negligence; and trespass for injuring the state's natural resources.

Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound, which was used to insulate electronics, from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979, due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can also have adverse skin and liver effects in humans. Not only that, the chemical also lingers in the environment for many decades.

"PCBs have been found in bays, rivers, streams, sediment, soil and air throughout Washington state, with more than 600 suspected or confirmed contamination sites from Puget Sound to the Wenatchee River, Lake Spokane to Commencement Bay," Ferguson said.

He noted that Washington has spent tens of millions of dollars on cleanup efforts but the toxic pollutants have caused harm to protected salmon and orcas. The state is seeking hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars from Monsanto.

Ferguson also claimed that "Monsanto produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals' harm to human health and the environment."

He cited Monsanto's internal documents showing the company knew about the dangers of PCBs way back in 1937, including one document that stated how tests on animals revealed "systemic toxic effects" from prolonged exposure from inhaling PCB fumes or ingestion.

Furthermore, as the AP reported, in 1969, a Monsanto committee on PCBs declared:

"There is too much customer/market need and selfishly too much Monsanto profit to go out ... There is little probability that any action that can be taken will prevent the growing incrimination of specific polychlorinated biphenyls ... as nearly global environmental contaminants leading to contamination of human food (particularly fish), the killing of some marine species (shrimp), and the possible extinction of several species of fish eating birds."

Despite having that information, the company told the public not to worry. That same year, Monsanto sent a letter to New Jersey's Department of Conservation that stated, "Based on available data, manufacturing and use experience, we do not believe PCBs to be seriously toxic."

Although PCBs have been banned for decades, the toxic compound is still detected in the environment today. This warning sign was displayed near New York's Hudson River in 2013. NOAA

The St. Louis-based corporation has been served with similar PCB contamination lawsuits from at least eight other West Coast cities including Seattle and Spokane in Washington state. The cities of Portland in Oregon and Berkeley, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland and Long Beach in California have also filed suits. Those cases are pending.

Monsanto has dismissed its latest PCB contamination case. Company spokesman Scott S. Partridge said in a statement to the AP that the "case is experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer."

"PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades, and Washington is now pursuing a case on a contingency fee basis that departs from settled law both in Washington and across the country. Most of the prior cases filed by the same contingency fee lawyers have been dismissed, and Monsanto believes this case similarly lacks merit," Partridge continued.

Monsanto has historically prevailed in lawsuits filed against the company over human illness related to PCBs. But in a rare win for plaintiffs this past May, a St. Louis jury awarded a total of $46.5 million in damages to three plaintiffs who claimed that exposure to PCBs caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

That lawsuit also accused Monsanto of continuing to sell the compounds even after learning about its dangers and falsely assuring the public they were safe.

Washington's lawsuit comes just days before shareholders decide on Bayer AG's $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto that would create the world's largest seed and pesticide company. The pending deal is currently undergoing state and federal antitrust investigations. The vote will take place on Dec. 13.

Ohio governmental officials will be releasing an updated report about a two-square-mile toxic blob at the bottom of Lake Erie that might be spreading perilously close to a water intake pipe that supplies drinking water for the city of Cleveland.

Lake Erie's toxic sediment is a potential threat to city of Cleveland's drinking water.Stefanie Spear

According to The Plain Dealer, the new report is expected for release later this fall and is based on new tests taken nearby a section of the lake bottom known as Area-1, located about nine miles off the coast. Prior Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests of the tainted plot from 2014 and 2015 revealed levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that were much higher than elsewhere in Lake Erie. These highly toxic chemicals can harm or kill aquatic life and can cause cancer in humans.

Lake Erie's toxic blob is the result of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' dumping of dredged and untreated sludge from the polluted Cuyahoga River shipping channel in the 1970s. The disposal took place before the Clean Water Act of 1972 was enacted.

The mass is located about five miles from an intake valve for the Nottingham Water Treatment Plant, which supplies drinking water to parts of Cuyahoga County—Ohio's most populous county. It is unclear how fast the blob is moving or if it will actually reach the pipe.

Two-square-mile blob sitting at the bottom of Lake Erie could be spreading.Ohio EPA / The Plain Dealer

The Ohio EPA said in May that the city's water is being monitored and is safe.

Kurt Princic, chief of EPA's Northeast Ohio District, said PCBs or PAHs have not been detected so far at the Nottingham water plant, The Plain Dealer reported.

However, this doesn't mean that the situation won't change.

"I'm no more satisfied now than I ever was that we have dispelled the fact that we have toxic sediment moving toward our drinking water," Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler told The Plain Dealer. "We need conclusive evidence. We need more samples so that we will know, once and for all, whether this substance is moving."

"We need the U.S. EPA's help to develop an analysis and a strategy to determine if it is migrating and whether it is a threat to drinking water," Princic added.

Former Army Corps Brigadier General Richard Kaiser denies claims that the toxic sediment is spreading or that it's a threat to the city's drinking water. He told The Plain Dealer that Army Corps scientists assured him that waves cannot influence sediment 60 feet underwater except during extreme storm events, adding that the EPA's testing methods and reports were "critically flawed."

However, Butler has refuted this view, citing EPA's tests indicating that the toxic sediment has indeed spread from the original dumping site from wind currents and storms.