Our environment, both internally and externally, is so fragile. Who knows what we ingest each day. Here is the first part of an article on peregrine falcons and the environment. The voice of the canary is no longer confined to the cave.
Flame retardant found in peregrine falcon eggs
Thursday, May 8, 2008
(05-07) 18:58 PDT -- The eggs of peregrine falcons living in California's big cities contain some of the highest levels ever found in wildlife of a flame retardant used in consumer products, a new study has found.
Studies of peregrine falcon eggs and chicks by state scientists reveal that the birds hunting in San Francisco, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego are ingesting the flame retardant called PBDEs, believed to leach out of foam mattresses, synthetic fabrics, plastic casings of televisions, electronics and other products. The research shows that the indoor chemicals can contaminate the outdoors and even humans.
The predator birds - which can fly 200 mph - feed on pigeons and other birds, which probably pick up the chemicals in the environment from sewage, landfills and runoff, scientists say. Humans can be exposed by inhaling household dust and absorbing the chemicals through the skin.
"Urban wildlife are the sentinel species that can tell us about chemicals of emerging concern that are coming from city exposures. Information from these species can be useful to us in protecting the sensitive members of our population like infants, children and pregnant women," said Kim Hooper, one of the leading research scientists with the California Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Chemistry Laboratory.
The work, which Hooper will present today at the annual meeting of the Northern California Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry at UC Berkeley, is part of the state's Wildlife Early Warning System supported by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
Included in the study are unhatched eggs and a dead chick from nests of San Francisco's celebrity pair of peregrine falcons, George and Gracie, and in the future might include an unhatched egg from Carlos and Clara, who are raising young at San Jose City Hall.
The prevalence of PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, is raising concern among research scientists. The flame retardants are known as endocrine disrupters because they interfere with the function of the thyroid hormone, which is critical to the proper development of the brain and nervous system. Hooper is concerned that the levels of PBDEs in peregrine falcons are close to levels damaging developing neurological systems in lab rats and mice.