Enviros try to make mercury the new DDT with bird claims

Thus begins the DDT-ification of coal-fired power plants.

The New York Times article “Mercury’s Harmful Reach Has Grown, Study Suggests” spotlights a new report from something called the the Biodiversity Research Institute called “Hidden Risk: Mercury in Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Northeast.”

Cutting to the chase, “Hidden Risk” maintains that mercury is hurting songbird reproduction based, in turn, on an October 2011 study published in the journal Auk.

The Auk study however is junk science.

All the researchers did in this first-of-its-kind study was to correlate mercury levels with claimed reproductive failure in a small number of wrens — without taking any other measurements or observations of any other substances and/or conditions. They set out to blame mercury and, lo and behold, they suceeded.

What the researchers should have done is to conduct a controlled experiment in which mercury was the only variable — but of course, science doesn’t fit in with the radical green agenda.

Although the researchers noted that,

Dosing studies may be an important next step…

They made no effort to do so before sounding the alarm.

The New York Times article is below. The BRI study is here and the Auk paper is here.


January 23, 2012
Mercury’s Harmful Reach Has Grown, Study Suggests

The strict new federal standards limiting pollution from power plants are meant to safeguard human health. But they should have an important side benefit, according to a study being released on Tuesday: protecting a broad array of wildlife that has been harmed by mercury emissions.

Songbirds and bats suffer some of the same types of neurological disorders from mercury as humans and especially children do, says the study, “Hidden Risk,” by the Biodiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Gorham, Me., that investigates emerging environmental threats.

Methylmercury, the most toxic form of the heavy metal, was found to be widespread throughout the Northeast — not just in lakes and rivers, as had already been known, but also in forests, on mountaintops and in bogs and marshes that are home to birds long thought to be at minimal risk.

The new study found dangerously high levels of mercury in several Northeastern bird species, including rusty blackbirds, saltmarsh sparrows and wood thrushes. Previous studies have shown mercury’s effects on loons and other fish-eating waterfowl, as well as bald eagles, panthers and otters. In one study, zebra finches lost the ability to hit high notes in mating songs when mercury levels rose, affecting reproduction.

“We’re seeing many other species in a much larger landscape of harm from mercury,” said the principal author, David C. Evers, who is the institute’s executive director. He called the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury standards, adopted last month and scheduled to take effect over the next four years, “an excellent step forward in reducing and minimizing the impact on ecosystems and improving ecological health, and therefore our own health.”

Mercury, which occurs naturally in the earth, is released into the air when coal is burned in power plants. The gaseous mercury can drift hundreds of miles before settling back to earth, sometimes along with rain. The mercury can be absorbed by tree leaves; when they fall to the ground they are swarmed by bacteria and other organisms that convert the mercury to its organic form. The organic form, methylmercury, is a neurotoxin that can enter the food chain. Small insects, worms and snails that feed on forest litter absorb the mercury. In turn, they are eaten by birds and other small animals, and so on through the food chain.

Dr. Evers said levels of contamination were highest in habitats like marshes and beaver ponds that go through cycles of wet and dry, even if they are far from power plants. He also found that threshold levels at which some species begin to feel the effects of mercury are much lower than previously thought.

Songbirds with blood mercury levels of just 0.7 parts per million generally showed a 10 percent reduction in the rate at which eggs successfully hatched. As mercury increases, reproduction decreases. At mercury levels of greater than 1.7 parts per million, the ability of eggs to hatch is reduced by more than 30 percent, according to the study.

Over all, birds in contaminated sites were found to be three times as likely to abandon their nests or exhibit abnormal incubation or feeding behavior. In some nests, the chicks seemed to have been affected most; they vocalized less and did not beg as aggressively to be fed.

Such consequences mimic the effects of mercury on humans whose primary contact with the toxin is through the consumption of fish. The contamination can be passed to children in the womb or while they are nursing, damaging their nervous systems and impairing their ability to learn.

“It’s incredibly important that someone is following what is happening to these birds,” said Joanna Burger, a behavioral ecologist at Rutgers University who has studied mercury contamination in animals. “The birds not only act as sentinels to what is happening in nature, but the results of these studies propose hypotheses for effects that have not yet been identified for people.”

Dr. Evers has been studying mercury in terrestrial species for 11 years across 11 states, from Virginia to Maine, continually adding new species and ecosystems. In the latest study, done in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy, biologists found that little brown bats, already stressed by white nose syndrome in the Northeast, accumulate substantial amounts of mercury because they can live up to 30 years — three times as long as songbirds.

The mercury is believed to cause bats to act erratically, and in some cases to lose their adeptness at avoiding wind turbine blades.

“What people don’t realize is that our rain isn’t just acidic,” said Timothy H. Tear, director of science for the Nature Conservancy in New York. “It is neurotoxic.”

The effects of mercury can lead to the degradation of entire ecosystems, Dr. Tear explained. “You don’t see birds falling off tree limbs because they have too much mercury,” he said, “but they’re not doing the job they used to.”

9 thoughts on “Enviros try to make mercury the new DDT with bird claims”

  1. “Mercury’s Harmful Reach Has Grown, Study Suggests”
    As in a previous comment regarding the use of the word “May” here it’s use of the word “Suggests.” These articles serve one purpose and one purpose only; to prey on the gullibility of the public’s wont to pay particular attention to studies that predict doom and gloom. In this case it’s the evil industrial complex’s “reckless disposal of mercury” having a devastating effect on the lives of innocent wild life and what is more innocent and heartwarming than the colorful little birds feeding in those indigenous window and backyard bird feeders. This is the favorite almost universal theme of the environmental left, the wanton destruction of the natural world by the industrial world. This is about as insidious as it gets.

    A warmer than typical winter in your part of the world “suggests” that anthropogenic global warming is a real existential threat. Should one read any further?

  2. so as I understand it:-
    Mercury is the spawn of satan and must be eliminated at any cost…… enviroidiot brigade ’60’s. ’70’s, 80’s, 90’s

    Mercury is safe in your home so the use of CFL’s becomes mandatory ……. enviroidiot brigade ’00’s

    Mercury is the spawn of satan and must be eliminated at any cost…… enviroidiot brigade ’10’s….

    dont worry it will soon be OK again…….

    Is the environmental movement (emphasis on the mental) living proof that Darwin got it wrong?

  3. Come on!

    Everybody knows the birds already depopulated themselves by flying into cell phone towers and power lines.

  4. I’m a little confused, we are now mandated to use light bulbs loaded with mercury, but it’s bad for birds and bats. The windmills kill about 500,000 birds and about as many bats, this from actual body-counts, how many are killed from mercury and is the mercury man-made or natural?

    I’m still confused….but I have a solution, stop the windmills and our net bird and bat population should go up.

  5. Let me see if I understand……..we now are relegated to using light fixtures that contain mercury and the very same folks who forced this on us are now trying to tell us that mercury is even more dangerous that they first thought. I’m confused!

  6. It is hard to trust the Left, they are intellectually dishonest. They are so determined to push their own agenda that they corrupt what might be legitimate science. “Correlation is not causation”. Just because two things correlate does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. It would be nice if they would employ scientific method rather than trying to make the results fit their idea. Instead they employ junk science.

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