A new study by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has found that baby "gooney birds" are eating lead-based paint chips from buildings around the island, which ironically has been designated a National Wildlife Refuge. The results are representative of a larger problem on old military bases around the world that are being turned into wildlife habitats, the researchers say.
The findings are scheduled to appear in the August 1 edition of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Midway Atoll, a sliver of islands 1,200 miles northwest of Hawaii, was the site of one of World War II's biggest naval battles the Battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942 and was the location of a U.S. Naval Air Facility until it was closed in the mid 1990s. The decommissioned military base, which was designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 1988, is home to the world's largest breeding population of Laysan albatrosses, or "gooney birds," so-named for their awkward crash landings.
A 1994 study showed that 85 percent of the buildings on Midway contained lead-based paint. Scientists have named lead poisoning as one of the leading causes of mortality in chicks on Midway in recent years, and there have been many reports of peripheral neuropathy, or "droopwing." "Peripheral neuropathy is a classic symptom of very high lead exposure in many species, including humans," says Myra Finkelstein, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental toxicology at U.C. Santa Cruz and lead author of the paper.
Between 1994-1997, the Navy spent millions of dollars cleaning up the island, scraping lead-based paint from buildings and repainting wit
Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society