BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new study conducted by researchers from the University at Buffalo says pollutants that haven't been used in years or even decades are being discovered in bird breeding grounds in the Great Lakes region.
Researchers found three types of chemicals: polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the breakdown products, called metabolites, of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT).
The study concluded that sales of PBDEs, a class of flame retardants used in car seats, carpet padding, mattresses and many other household products, were phased out in the U.S. in 2013.
Production of PCBs, once widely used as a coolant or insulating fluid in electrical transformers and capacitators, ended in the country in 1979.
And, the use of DDT, an insecticide, has been prohibited in the U.S. for almost half a century, since 1972.
“These chemicals are still there. They don’t just go away. With PCBs, for example, they haven’t been produced in the U.S. for a long time now, but you can still find them in the environment, in sediments and in water. They don’t degrade for many years. The fish eat organisms that accumulate them, and then the birds eat the fish,” says Aga, PhD, Henry M. Woodburn professor of chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences in a press release.
Scientists discovered all three kinds of chemicals in the organs of over two dozen common terns in breeding grounds along the Niagara River and the shore of Lake Erie.
Researchers also detected the compounds in emerald shiners, a small fish that is the terns’ primary food source in the area.
(A tern is defined as a seabird related to the gulls, typically smaller and more slender, with long pointed wings and a forked tail.)