Chemicals Gone Wild

Chemical pollutants have cropped up in—and are threatening the very existence of—the populations of two distinctive predatory creatures (see “Intensive Condor Care,” Currents, September/October 2007). As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Studies of peregrine falcon eggs and chicks by state scientists reveal that the birds 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.”

And, according to a piece in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers in France report that the widespread metal contaminant cadmium is interfering with the reproductive cycle of the European freshwater eel. As the eels swim, the cadmium previously stored in fat cells is released and accumulates in their sex organs. Fish physiologist Alan Kolok of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, says this is the first study he’s seen that demonstrates that internal stores of cadmium can be released at levels high enough to be toxic. He notes that other migratory fish such as salmon may be similarly impacted.