This lesson introduces students to bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Students learn about three real-life examples of ecosystems being contaminated by persistent organic pollutants (POPs.) First they study why bald eagles almost went extinct in the 1950s. (DDT.) They also learn about Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring. Then they study why people in Minamata, Japan were getting a horrible disease in the 1950s and 1960s. (Methyl mercury.) They also learn about W. Eugene Smith and his famous photograph, “Tomoko in her bath,” which brought international attention to the methyl mercury poisoning in Minamata and allowed people to successfully sue the company responsible for damages. Then students learn about what DDT and methyl mercury have in common, and why they are both classified as persistent organic pollutants. This knowledge is applied to the case of PCBs in the Hudson River, allowing students to answer the lesson aim.
The class activity for this lesson has students examining food chains and doing multiplication to determine how persistent organic pollutants biomagnify.
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