"Ant Study Deepens Concern About Plastic Additives"

A French scientist has published a study indicating that plastic additives called phthalates, thought to be endocrine disruptors, are widely found in one species of ants -- presumeably because they have become widespread in the environment.

"PARIS — About five years ago, Alain Lenoir, a researcher at François Rabelais University in Tours, France, was studying the biochemical process by which ants differentiate between friends and foes.

Scientists had come to understand that the insects used their antennae to sense the makeup of the hydrocarbons of other ants’ cuticles. Using chemical analyses like gas chromatography, Dr. Lenoir had begun focusing in particular on hydrocarbons on Lasius niger, the common black ant.

Dr. Lenoir, who has been studying ants since 1968, found something unexpected: in addition to the hydrocarbons, the analysis was consistently revealing the presence of plastic additives called phthalates, and not just in a few specimens – all of them."

David Jolly reports for the New York Times' Green blog January 7, 2013.

Source: Green/NYT, 01/08/2013