The Toxics Project

Our Contaminated Coasts

orca necropsy

When a female orca died in 2002 on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, her body laced with DDT and PCBs, it was a wake-up call. It showed that Northwest waters are not as pristine as they appear. We learned that toxic chemicals which had been banned over 30 years ago were still with us and still causing great harm. 

Sadly, DDT and PCBs are only the tip of the toxics iceberg today. Our rising population and the lives we lead are generating more contaminants, including a host of newer chemicals. Many are linked to cancer, developmental defects, and chronic illnesses. Mostly untested for consumer safety, they are now showing up in coastal water, and signs of their impacts on marine life are ominous. 

These are serious issues. To reduce the level of toxic chemicals around us we need to become more aware of this problem and the personal choices available to us.

If you're wondering "What can I do?" here are some places to start: 

Chemicals of Concern

Toxics in our Bodies: Learn about harmful compounds present in consumer products, many of which are contaminating marine waters.Explore the many excellent resources on this website by the Washington Toxics Coalition.

Pollution in People: Find out about our own exposure to toxics. Pollution in People reports on a study of chemicals found in the bodies of people like you and me. 

down the drain

Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound: Read an overview of 17 toxic chemicals polluting Puget Sound, their sources, pathways and steps needed to control them, from the Washington Department of Ecology website.

Puget Sound - Down the Drain: How are chemicals from homes around Puget Sound getting into its waters? The Washington Toxics Coalition studied the pathways taken by phthalates, a group of chemicals in household plastics, detergents and personal care products. Find out why phthalates are dangerous and how they make it to Puget Sound.

Trouble for Marine Life 

orca pod traveling

Toxic Chemicals In Puget Sound: How are toxics affecting marine life? Washington Toxics Coalition highlights some disturbing impacts now seen in a range of sea life from fish and sea turtles to seals and orcas. 

Contaminants in Orcas: Learn about the special risks orcas face from exposure to persistent organic pollutants, like DDT, PCBs and the flame retardant PBDEs.

Feminized Fish: Here in Puget Sound some bottomfish have a curious problem: male English sole are showing up with female characteristics. Scientists suspect a hormone disorder caused by chemicals known as endocrine disruptors coming through our wastewater. 

Don't Feed the Tox-Ick Monster:Seattle diver Laura James has made some remarkable videos of Seattle's underwater stormwater outfalls, including the one shown here. Watch this video and others at DiverLaura's vimeo site to see the "Tox-Ick Monster" in action. 

Laura and teach us all about the contaminants in water that drains from our streets straight into Puget Sound. is inspiring groups all around Puget Sound to help end toxic runoff.

Personal Actions

Non-Toxic Product Choices: Find out how to keep phthalates, teflon chemicals, flame retardants and other toxics out of the shopping cart—and out of the environment too, from this page on the Pollution in People website. 

Ten Tips To Protect Puget Sound: Here are 10 things we can all do to keep harmful chemicals out of Puget Sound, from the Washington Toxics Coalition

WSU raingarden training

Get Involved: The Environmental Working Group is a good all-around source of information on toxics. Their action page provides links to important environmental action alerts, including many that relate directly to controlling toxic chemicals. Use these tools to make your voice heard.

Help make our world free of toxic chemicals:

  • Become informed and be a careful consumer.
  • Join others in demanding tighter controls over toxic chemicals in our human and natural environments