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Study Finds Over 100 Harmful Contaminants in Maine Bird Eggs
[Rachel's Introduction: "These results are significant because many of these contaminants can interact to create effects more harmful than one toxic pollutant alone," Goodale said, "and the pervasiveness of the pollutants strongly suggests that birds and wildlife in other states are also accumulating these contaminants."]
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GORHAM -- The BioDiversity Research Institute this week released a report documenting that over 100 harmful contaminants were found in Maine bird eggs.

Flame retardants (PBDEs), industrial stain and water repellents (PFCs), transformer coolants (PCBs), pesticides (OCs) and mercury were found in all 23 species of birds tested. The bird species were studied in a variety of habitats, including on Maine's ocean, salt marshes, rivers, lakes and uplands.

"This is the most extensive study of its kind to date and the first time industrial stain and water repellents were discovered in Maine birds," said senior research biologist Wing Goodale.

Common loon, Atlantic puffin, piping plover, belted kingfisher, great black-backed gull, peregrine falcon and bald eagle had the highest contaminant levels. The flame retardant deca-BDE, banned last year in Maine, was found in eight species. Overall, eagles carried the greatest contaminant load, and for many contaminants had levels multiple times higher than other species.

Many of the contaminants levels recorded were above those documented to have adverse effects.

"These results are significant because many of these contaminants can interact to create effects more harmful than one toxic pollutant alone," Goodale said, "and the pervasiveness of the pollutants strongly suggests that birds and wildlife in other states are also accumulating these contaminants.

"Since we found that birds with high levels of one contaminant tended to have high levels of other contaminants, these compounds may cause top predators, such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons, to have greater difficulty hunting and caring for young."

The report also shows the contaminants are coming from both global and local sources. All the types of contaminants were found in all species -- including birds that feed hundreds of miles offshore. This indicates that the pollutants are most likely in rain and snow.

Birds in mid-coast and southern Maine tended to have higher levels, suggesting the compounds may also come from local sources such as incinerators and water treatment facilities.

"There is good news," Goodale said. "We found that banned chemicals like PCBs and DDT were significantly lower in Maine today than in the past, showing that by banning chemicals we can decrease levels of harmful contaminants in the environment."

Samples were collected from the following towns: Biddeford, Boothbay, Bridgton, Bucksport, Chester, Criehaven TWP, Dead River TWP, Deer Isle, Eastport, Falmouth, Gorham, Islesboro, Kennebunk, Kittery, Lincoln TWP, Lincolnville, Milbridge, Mount Desert Island, North Haven, Old Orchard Beach, Phippsburg, Portland, Saco, Scarborough, Searsmont, South Portland, Spalding TWR, T3 Indian Purchase, Wells, and Westbrook.

The BioDiversity Research Institute is a nonprofit ecological research group dedicated to progressive environmental study and education that furthers global sustainability and conservation policies. The organization believes that wildlife serve as important indicators of ecological integrity.

Copyright 2008, Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.