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New study shows bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay affected by chemicals

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - There are many bottlenose dolphins that call the Sarasota Bay home and if the red tide wasn't a big enough concern, these dolphins now have something else to worry about.

A new study shows 71 percent of these dolphins have been exposed to manmade chemicals usually found in cleaning products, pesticides, cosmetics and plastic. 

"Often times phthalates enter the marine environment through runoff from urbanized areas, it can also enter through the settling of emissions during manufacturing processes," said Leslie Hart, a Public Health Professor with the College of Charleston.

This study involved researchers from the College of Charleston as well as many different organizations, taking urine samples from 17 dolphins in 2016 and 2017.

"We want to know how they're getting exposed or where they're getting exposed and we're also interested in trying to understand if exposure to these chemicals impacts their health," said Hart.

Randall Wells is director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program which is overseen by the Chicago Zoological Society.  His group has been monitoring Sarasota dolphins now for nearly 50 years.  He tells us the 170 dolphins in the bay are vital to the area and he says anything that is harming them including chemicals is frightening.

"There's over a hundred thousand chemicals that people have put into the waters, we need to be concerned about the potential and we need to monitor it closely," said Wells.  "We need to continue the studies over time and recognize there may be places where the concentration of these chemicals are even higher than Sarasota Bay, where they could potentially be of even greater concern." 

Researchers tell us they're expecting more studies to be done on this in the coming years which should provide more answers.