Corals from reefs in Nanwan (南灣), a small bay west of Kenting (墾丁), were found to contain dozens of different environmental hormones, the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung County said.
During an extensive study, museum researchers found evidence that corals found throughout the area harbor dozens of types of persistent organic pollutants deep within their tissues, with some proven to be environmental hormones, the museum said.
The study was published online on Monday by the international journal Environmental Pollution.
Environmental hormones are regarded as serious environmental hazards that can have disruptive effects on wildlife and humans.
In analyzing coral tissue from the area, researchers detected several environmental hormones, but the most common one was polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
PAHs are a group of organic contaminants that result from the incomplete combustion of organic fuels, such as coal. They can also come from carbon dioxide emissions by ships and vehicles, and the incomplete combustion of garbage and oil spills.
With their relatively stable chemical structure, PAHs do not easily dissolve in water or disperse in the air, researchers said, adding that the levels of environmental hormones vary in different areas and times.
For example, after heavy summer rains, the level of contaminants in coral from the mouth of the Shih Niou Creek (石牛溪) in Kenting is usually higher than during other seasons, signaling that land erosion and wash-off could threaten coral reef ecosystems.
Increasing human activity, including human travel, could also have led to the growing accumulation of environmental hormones in coral reefs, the museum said.