Biological magnification has wreaked havoc on ecosystems many times before. One of the most famous cases involved the bald eagle and the pesticide DDT. The DDT used in farming would eventually find its way into the bodies of bald eagles, where it would cause them to lay thin, fragile, eggs. These fragile egg shells would often be damaged or crushed by the eagles, resulting in fewer eagles being born. The bald eagle population crashed until DDT was banned in the United States.
Biological accumulation poses many risks. Pesticides, heavy metals and other accumulants have been linked to neurological problems, cancer, reproductive problems and depressed immune systems. The biggest risk for people is mercury accumulation from fish. Women of childbearing age and young children are especially at risk. You should have high mercury content fish such as swordfish once a week at most and, ideally, less than that. You can safely consume a few six-ounce helpings each week of fish with low mercury content, such as herring and halibut. For detailed information about which fish to eat and which to avoid see Resources below. Pesticides on fruits and vegetables are another risk of biological accumulation. Always wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Throughout your lifetime, you will eat thousands of pounds worth of plant matter, so even a little bit of pesticide contamination on each apple is a bad thing.
Biological magnification is a worldwide issue. Pollution from mining, manufacturing, farming runoff, dumping and other sources of contamination wash into streams and rivers, which in turn wash into…