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  Noise pollution hurting whales and dolphins
Updated 13 December 2001, 16.05
White sided dolphin
Whales and dolphins could be dying and beaching themselves because of noise pollution.

Researchers think noise from US Navy sonar and explosives tests as well from tankers and oil exploration cause mammals to dive deeper, so there's more chance of them getting the "bends".

Bubbles in the blood

Whale diving

Usually, it's human divers who can suffer from the bends, which can kill. But it can happen to animals too.

When an animal dives, nitrogen gas is squeezed out of their lungs and bubbles into the bloodstream. The deeper and longer the dive, the more gas collects.

Too much nitrogen in the blood can kill, so when they surface whales and dolphins breathe out to get rid of the dangerous bubbles.

Proof

But experts at the Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego now think noise like sonar and blasts can make the gas bubbles in the bloodstream so big they block blood vessels and crush nerves.

Scientists at the Harvard Medical School in Boston have found proof that loud noises could damage their organs as well as ears.

The Center for Whale Research also found in just one day, 16 whales and dolphins were washed up near where the US Navy had been experimenting.

Go to the link to the right of the story to check out the interactive guide to whales and animals in danger

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Minke whales threatened by Japan
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