Faroe Researcher Connects Whale Consumption To Parkinson’s DiseaseAugust 5, 2015
Beached Whales Likely An Indicator Of Neurological Disease Upstream
Sick animals tell us a lot. Whales have too much intellectual, social and navigational capacity to run aground en masse unless extremely sick and disoriented. As mammals high on the food chain and downstream from billions of people, their health is a good indictor of environmental health and human health. They’re sick. They’re screaming for help.
Unfortunately, whales and dolphins have been dying and washing up on beaches around the world for years. The causes are multiple. Some deaths are blamed on sonar and other weapons. Some collide with ships and boats. Others die due to toxic exposure. These beached whales and dolphins are canaries in coal mines. Their bodies are like giant sponges that can reveal the health of the ocean and the planet. They can tell us about the health of our watersheds and the safety of food and water.
For example, sick and dead whales might be able to shed light on the Alzheimer’s disease epidemic that is exploding exponentially around the globe. If the prion pathogen associated with Alzheimer’s and many related neurodegenerative diseases is present in whales and dolphins, it’s further confirmation of the scope of these killer proteins. Unfortunately, that critical test is not taking place on the whales and dolphins now (or results are being suppressed).
As with humans and other mammals, whales and dolphins are vulnerable to prion disease, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Parkinson’s disease. At least one dolphin has been found with prion disease, but testing is severely lacking. Since dietary factors are clearly linked to neurological disease, studying the correlation between diet and disease can help illuminate the prion problem. We might be able to learn more about the health of whales by studying the people who eat them.
Whale meat appears to be contributing to high rates of neurological disease in Nordic and Baltic nations. Pioneering research found that Parkinson’s patients on the Faroe Islands have consumed about six times more whale meat and blubber than their neighbors who don’t have the disease.
Maria Skaalum Petersen is working to shed light on the connection between sick seas, sick whales and the people who consume them. Petersen is a researcher in the Department of Occupational and Public Health in the Faroe Islands health service. One of her projects has included a comparison of the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease (part of the TSE spectrum) in the Nordic countries.
She found that Parkinson’s disease is twice as prevalent on the Faroe Islands as in Norway and other Nordic countries. A traditional diet on the Faroe Islands typically includes pilot whale meat.
Predators, including some whales, are high on the food chain. Predators that consume predators are consuming the toxic build-up from every animal ever consumed. Therefore, predators (and the people who consume them) often serve as an excellent indicator of the health of an entire ecosystem, including prion contamination.
Not all whales are created equal, though. The whale meat sold in Norway and Iceland is mostly from minke whales, a species that has a diet much lower in the food chain. This means they do not accumulate as many contaminants or prions as pilot whales. This means that the risks associated with whale meat is slightly less for the people in Norway. Norway still has a fairly high rate of neurological disease.
“The Faroe Islanders eat pilot whales, while Norwegians eat baleen whales. Pilot whales have teeth and primarily eat fish and squid, which puts them higher on the food chain,” Petersen says.
Baleen whales feed by filtering zooplankton and krill into their mouths as they swim. In essence, they are vegetarians. Eating lower on the food chain lowers their prion exposure, but it doesn’t make them immune to the prion problem.
This study indicates that there is prion accumulation in whales–some more than others. It indicates that prions are in our oceans and onward upstream. It indicates that prions are in our food and water supplies and reckless sewage management is contributing to the problem. It reminds us of the hazards associated with wastewater reuse, sewage sludge disposal and biosolids in our communities and watersheds.
What can we learn from the Faroe Islands and whale meat? Prions are building up in the environment and in mammals now.This is a battle of pathway management. Time to manage the contamination is running out. Sewage mismanagement, including agricultural and industrial waste, is contributing to the problem.
If whales could talk, they would tell us to get our sh*t together and put it in a much safer place. Presently, we are recycling sewage sludge, biosolids and reclaimed water throughout our watersheds. We are contaminating food and water supplies. We are pissing in the pool. We’re being fed lies and prions. Save the world. Save the whales. Save yourself.