An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany


Julia Sommer

The term xenobiotic is derived from the Greek words xenos, foreign, and bios, life. It refers to any compound that is biologically active but foreign to an organism. Xenobiotics are usually of anthropogenic origin, like pharmaceutical drugs, synthetics, pesticides or herbicides and food additives. Substances that are innocuous in one organism can act as a xenobiotic in another organism. Most of these substances enter into the environment through wastewater, treated or untreated, or are washed into the sea as leachate from landfills. Agriculture is another important source, as domesticated animals are treated with a variety of growth hormones and antibiotics that are passed into their manure and urine; these are often used as fertilizers in the fields and contaminate water bodies when they are washed away by rainfall. If they are not broken down, these substances can be harmful to marine organisms and, in their passing through the food chain, for humans, too. The animations are based on marbles, created with shaving foam and water. Bright colors are contrasted with black accents that are moving and spreading. This makes the aspect of the slow poisoning of the oceans visible.

Sources: de Bolster, M. W. G., “Glossary of terms used in bioinorganic chemistry (IUPAC Recommendations 1997)”, Pure and Applied Chemistry, vol. 69, issue. 6, (1997):1303.

Daughton, Christian and Ternes, Thomas, “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: Agents of Subtle Change? Environmental Health Perspectives, (1999).