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Beyond the oil spill, the human-ocean health connection

Since the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, the ocean and its relationship to human health have gushed into popular consciousness. Certainly, that heightened awareness is a silver lining (or is it an oily sheen?) on a social and ecological disaster that deepens by the day.

But as Stanford marine biologist Stephen Palumbi, PhD, points out in this TED talk - which, for lack of mention, was presumably filmed before oil started flowing in the Gulf - the human impact on ocean health extends far beyond the occasional catastrophe.

Our everyday consumption and usage habits (agriculture being a notable culprit) overload the ocean with heavy metals, dioxin and PCBs, which biomagnify as they move up through the food chain. A few results? Dolphin meat, pedaled as whale meat in Japan, with 200 to 400 times the toxic load allowed by the EPA; Inuit mothers whose diet of seal and whale meat has rendered their breast milk unfit for infants; bacterial and viral blooms that cause infections and disease outbreaks; and beach closings.

As Palumbi puts it, "If the ocean ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

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