Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mercury, Mercury Everywhere: Birds, Bats Contaminated With Mercury

We have long known that mercury from coal-fired power plants around the world have contaminated fish and that one-in-six women in America have elevated levels of mercury that can damage fetal development. Now a study by the Biodiversity Research Institute finds elevated levels of mercury in species of songbirds and bats. See and a New York Times article about the study at:

The study finds that rising levels of mercury in birds reduce from 10% to 30% the rate at which eggs hatch and that "bats also build up significant body burdens of mercury" that effect their neurochemistry.  According to the study, "birds found in habitats with pronounced wet-dry cycles, such as bogs, beaver bonds, and estuaries have the highest blood mercury concentrations. Interestingly, we also found elevated blood levels in birds found in upland areas such as deciduous and high elevation forests."

This study drives home that mercury is everywhere.  It makes plain that the impacts of the wind industry on wildlife are small compared to mercury and carbon pollution, of which wind power emits none.

Any good news in this report?  It does document that US total mercury emissions have declined from 250 tons per year to 100 tons from 1990 to 2005.  The study also notes that the recently finalized EPA air toxic rule will slash further US emissions of mercury.  Replacing old-coal fired power plants with gas or wind for example that emits no mercury also decreases sharply mercury emissions.

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