Toxic Waste Discovered Off Coast of Long Beach

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego published a new finding on April 26, from a 14 day expedition in the area known to contain the highly toxic insecticide product called DDT along the Los Angeles coast.

Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The insecticide was found between Santa Catalina Island and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Researchers mapped about 36,000 acres of the ocean area containing debris.

The team had concluded that roughly 27,000 barrels, possibly containing DDT, are sitting at a depth of 3,000 feet under the sea. Though, the area could extend beyond the dumpsite’s boundaries, which are around 12 miles offshore Los Angeles and eight miles from Catalina Island.

In 2011 and 2013, David Valentine, a UC Santa Barbara microbiology professor conducted the first expedition in the same location and captured clear photos of 60 barrels on the seafloor, that later were confirmed to contain significant levels of DDT concentrations.

Credit: Environmental Science and Technology

According to a study published by the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which was banned decades ago, has a generational impact on premature menstruation and obesity in young women.  Both of which are known risk factors for breast cancer and cardiometabolic illnesses. The research was conducted through three generations linking research back to prior publications.

The product was primarily used to control insects on agricultural crops as well as insects that spread diseases such as malaria and typhus.

In 1947, the state legislature made it legal for businesses to dispose of industrial waste in designated areas of the ocean, but companies were found to have dumped waste in other unassigned places. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, the same time in which firms were forbidden from dumping materials into the ocean.

A 2014 study by the Scripps team, found 327 artificial chemical substances including DDT appeared in eight Bottlenose Dolphins washed ashore in Southern California. Another study on four sea lions found in the same region also found DDT chemical compounds in the mammal. Both studies indicated that DDT is one of the many chemical factors that contribute to the development of cancer in these mammals.

The research team is currently working to complete the release of the sonar data, which could be helpful data for development of an action plan and to better understand the potential environmental impacts.

On May 3rd, California Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell presented the resolution, AJR-2, at the. assembly presentation. This bill was used to propose that the US Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency take action to protect California residents, wildlife, and natural resources. The bill was proposed in early December and quickly passed through both the state assembly and state senate. The bill has now been sent to Congress.

The City of Long Beach also ensures the sea quality meets the state’s standard through the Environmental Health Water Quality Monitoring Program.

“The city conducts weekly water samples,” said Chelsey Magallon Media Relations Joint Information Center. “These water samples are collected and tested routinely to monitor bacterial levels at our local beaches, bays, marinas, and within the Harbor area.”

To obtain more information on the city’s beach water quality, the public may contact the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Environmental Health Services Bureau at (562) 570-4132 Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit and click on Water Quality. 


Tin Huynh