Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Peregrine Falcons May Face New Environmental Threat

Date:
January 8, 2004
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
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.

Peregrine falcon (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Web site about the recovery of the peregrine falcon can be seen at: http://endangered.fws.gov/recovery/peregrine/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Peregrine Falcons May Face New Environmental Threat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/01/040108074302.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2004, January 8). Peregrine Falcons May Face New Environmental Threat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/01/040108074302.htm
American Chemical Society. "Peregrine Falcons May Face New Environmental Threat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/01/040108074302.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins