Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Peregrine falcons may face new environmental threat

08.01.2004


Less than five years after being removed from the endangered species list, peregrine falcons could be facing a new threat. A Swedish study found that eggs of peregrine falcons in that country contain high levels of a popular flame retardant, deca-BDE, which scientists have long thought could not get into wildlife. Falcons in North America are likely to face the same threat, the researchers say.



The birds’ eggs contained some of the highest levels of BDEs (brominated diphenyl ethers) ever found in any kind of wildlife, and this was the first time that the deca formulation of BDE has been found in a living organism. The findings add to mounting concern among some scientists that deca-BDE — the world’s most widely used brominated flame-retardant — is not as harmless as previously believed.

The report, which examined three peregrine falcon populations in Sweden — two in the wild and one in captivity — appears in the current edition (Jan. 1) of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.


Aerial predators that can power-dive on their prey at speeds up to 200 mph, peregrine falcons approached the brink of extinction after World War II. Their decline was blamed mostly on organochlorine pesticides like DDT, which were linked to thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation.

While BDEs do not produce the eggshell thinning associated with DDT, there has been some evidence of neurobehavioral problems from exposure to the chemicals in laboratory animals, a potential concern for a bird that relies on surprising its prey and diving on it. Two BDE forms — the penta and octa versions — will be banned in member states of the European Union beginning later this year, and the main U.S. manufacturer of the products recently announced its plans to phase out production of penta- and octa-BDEs as part of a voluntary agreement with the U.S. EPA.

"We found high concentrations of all the different BDEs in both wild populations," says Cynthia de Wit, Ph.D., an associate professor at Stockholm University’s Institute of Applied Environmental Research and lead author of the study. "The total concentrations of all the BDEs in the wild falcons are some of the highest seen in any wildlife globally."

Finding the deca form of BDE in the falcons was a surprise to the researchers since that formulation has long been considered too big a molecule to cross cell membranes and be taken up by wildlife or humans. "This is the first time anyone has found deca in wildlife," de Wit says.

"The fact that we have found [deca] in falcon eggs means that it is in their food, is taken up from the gut and is transferred to the eggs," de Wit says. "Thus, deca seems to cross cell membranes without too much trouble."

The new findings add to growing concern that the deca molecule might not be as harmless as previously believed, de Wit says.

Researchers from the University of Maryland, also reporting in the current issue of Environmental Science & Technology, recently found evidence that fish exposed to deca can metabolize it into the lighter and more harmful penta and octa forms.

The European Union recently conducted an environmental risk assessment on deca. In early December 2003 it concluded that deca poses an acceptably low risk and will not be banned.

Many scientists, however, advocate a more cautious approach. "We discovered the DDT problem because bird populations crashed," de Wit says. "They still haven’t completely recovered from DDT, so new effects could be masked. Or the BDE concentrations haven’t gotten high enough yet to cause a recognizable effect."

"The least that should be done is to reduce exposure, especially for humans," de Wit says. "Deca does not seem to be a very stable molecule and I am concerned that the release of huge amounts of deca over many years will lead to a buildup in the environment that will then slowly degrade to BDEs that are much more bioavailable."

There is a high probability that peregrine falcons in North America could face a similar risk from deca exposure, de Wit notes. "According to statistics from 1999, 24,300 tons of deca were used in the Americas, compared to only 7,500 tons in Europe," de Wit says.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation provided funding for this research.

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.acs.org/
http://endangered.fws.gov/recovery/peregrine/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>