ROME, Jan. 6 (Xinhua)-- Toxic pollutants in the Arctic poses great health threats to polar bears, leading to pseudo-hermaphrodites and brain damage, a recent study has showed.
Analyzing the effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on species in the Arctic, researchers at the University of Milano Bicocca in Italy found that polar bears are exposed to greater health risks than seals, and their cubs are at the highest risk.
Widely used in industry after World War II, POPs are toxic chemicals that have negative health impact on humans, animals and the environment. They can be transported by wind and water, accumulate in the environment and pass between different species through the food chain.
Researchers in Norway observed in 1996 two cases of pseudo-hermaphrodite in polar bears. The animals had normal vaginal openings and a penis bone inside it. However, neither of them showed signs of having a Y chromosome which could determine they were male.
Such "intersex" polar bears may have risen as a result of hormonal disruptions caused by pollutants, scientists suggested.