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[greenyes] FW: [mnkids] FL Hg drop w/emissions/batteries reduction

MN Kids Enviro Health <mnkids@no.address> -- posted by dwallinga@no.address
Everglades Mercury Levels Fall Sharply, Study Shows
Thu Jul 15, 2004 04:37 PM ET

MIAMI (Reuters) - Mercury levels in the Florida Everglades have fallen
sharply since authorities curtailed waste incinerators and battery
manufacturers reduced their use of the heavy metal, university researchers
said on Thursday.
After analyzing nearly a century of data from bird feathers, the researchers
from the University of Florida said they had proved that dangerously high
levels of mercury found in the wetlands in the early 1990s had been caused
by local waste incineration.

Mercury levels found in the feathers of birds last year were 90 percent
lower than in 1994, following the introduction of new regulations demanding
waste incinerators install pollution-cutting scrubbers on their smoke
stacks, said Peter Frederick, an associate professor of wildlife ecology at
the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

"This is a triumph of regulation, which is something you don't hear about
very often," Frederick added.

The study found it took about seven years for mercury levels in the birds to
decline after emissions were curtailed.

The fall in mercury levels also coincided with the voluntary phasing out in
the 1980s of the use of mercury by some major battery manufacturers, which
cut the amount of toxins in household waste, the researchers said.

The University of Florida findings could play a part in a national debate
over mercury emissions from coal-fired power stations in identifying local
sources of pollution, rather than global sources, as the main reason for
mercury contamination.

Environmentalists, and some U.S. states, accuse the Bush administration and
the Environmental Protection Agency of not enforcing the Clean Air Act, and
abandoning strict controls on mercury emissions from power plants.

Florida has few coal-fired power plants and gets most of its electricity
from nuclear power, which is why waste incinerators ranked as the main
source of Everglades mercury contamination.

Mercury is a toxin that causes reproductive and behavioral problems in
birds. The metal also is toxic to humans, and can cause serious neurological

The University of Florida study said populations of wading birds in the
Everglades dropped by 90 percent between the 1950s and the 1980s, and high
mercury levels played a part. The numbers of breeding pairs in the marsh in
the last five years were higher than they had been in the previous 30 years.

The findings appear in the June issue of the journal Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry.

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