The study included monitoring tissue samples for the past five years from over a thousand whales in various locations ranging from the icy polar waters to the warmer seas of the equator and evidence that man made pollution has infected the whales and polluted the entire ocean ecosystem are evident in these results. The heavy metals that were discovered include lead, aluminum, silver, cadmium, and of course the deadly and well known mercury which has been poisoning our seas at an astounding rate due to the coal industry and other industrial waste.
Finding such high levels of these toxic metals in a mammal which is the ocean's top predator means that the entire food chain has been poisoned and this could be a major threat to the human food supply as well. When pollution from coal burning plants or other sources enter the water and are consumed by crustaceans and small fish they are unable to process the heavy metals so they remain in the organism's tissue. When larger fish are exposed to this pollution they do the same thing; however, since they are also ingesting contaminated food the level of toxins continue to build and increase the further up the food chain that you go.
The same is true for humans which is why eating tuna or other large fish from the open sea can be so dangerous to our health since these large fish contain extremely high rates of toxins, mercury, and other metals. When we eat seafood that has been contaminated with mercury it can lead to a variety of health problems including neurological conditions including impaired vision, slurred speech, hearing problems, disorientation, tremors. In higher doses, mercury exposure can lead to organ failure and even death. Since the more of the contaminated seafood you consume, the more these toxins build up, the more your health is put at risk over time.
Since the traces of metal that were found came from tissue samples around the blubber of the whales, it is evidence that the pollutants have spread far from their original source into waters way off of the mainlands where the whales consumed their meals. Some of the toxins, such as mercury, have been a widespread problem; however, discovering such levels of cadmium was a bit of a surprise to the researchers. Cadmium is a substance that has been known to cause lung cancer and is used in stainless steel, various forms of paints, and in the process of dyeing leather. The effects of the other metals on the health of the whales and their effect on humans who ingest food from the same sources is yet unknown but this latest information should serve as a strong warning towards the rogue countries who are still engaging in illegal whaling-- not only are they outraging the international community, but they are putting their own lives in danger as well.