Traces of found in falcon eggs from Spain and Canada
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — After recovering from the threat of DDT, may be facing a new pollution threat, this time from a group of chlorinated compounds used as flame retardants to keep plastics and fabrics from burning easily.
A team of Spanish and Canadian scientists for the first time detected some of these emerging pollutants in peregrine falcon eggs in both countries. They said it’s not clear what effect the chemicals may have on the birds. In nature, these compounds are “bioaccumulating and bioconcentrating” all along the food chain. Simply put, they don’t break down easily and end up at their highest concentrations in top-level predators.
The researchers got permits to study unhatched peregrine falcon eggs from nests in Canada and Spain. The collection included 13 eggs from Spain and 12 eggs from eastern Canada. Selecting the peregrine falcon was no accident. This species was endangered in many areas of the northern hemisphere due to the use of organochlorinated pesticides, particularly DDT, though when this was prohibited in the 1970s the populations recovered. Furthermore, falcons are at the top end of the food chain and accumulate substances carried by their prey.
The levels of some of the measured contaminants were somewhat higher in Bilbao than in Guadalajara, and the authors believe this may be due partially to the difference in the falcons’ diet: More aquatic in the former and more terrestrial in the latter. In fact, if fish is highly contaminated, peregrines would accumulate more of the harmful substances. While peregrine falcons do not eat fish, they prey upon other birds, some of which may eat fish.
The highest concentrations were in the Canadian falcon eggs. The researchers speculated that the higher levels were due to nearby production facilities, especially in New York, where the compounds have been manufactured for decades. The flame retardants have also been used more intensively in North America.
Brominated flame retardants have already been confirmed as toxic endocrine disruptors, and their use has been prohibited in some of the commercial mixes in Europe and America. Furthermore, they are candidates for inclusion on a list of Persistent Organic Pollutants to be eliminated, a list compiled by the Stockholm Convention which includes other pollutants such as DDT or dioxins.
This study forms part of the doctoral thesis submitted this month by the researcher Paula Guerra from IDAEA on “The analysis of emerging halogenated flame retardants and their impact on the environment and on humans”. All of the eggs were analyzed by her during her exchange studies at Environment Canada.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment Tagged: | biodiversity, conservation, DDT, Environment, Environment Canada, Flame retardant, Peregrine Falcon, Persistent organic pollutant, Summit County News, wildlife