he BioDiversity Research Institute reports that researchers have found mercury in songbirds in New England estuaries and wildlife refuges.
All of the 220 saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows studied had elevated mercury levels, with some as high as 3.2 parts per million. That’s way over the minimum believed to hurt songbirds. Such levels have long been found in loons and bald eagles.
“We were surprised to find such elevated mercury in all the sparrows we sampled in national wildlife refuges [including the Ninigret refuge, in Rhode Island] set aside to protect birds,” said Oksana Lane, a biologist with the institute and a lead author of the study.
The research, which was funded by federal and Maine state agencies, is an unpleasant reminder that fossil-fuel power plants, including oil and/or coal-fired ones as the Mirant plant in Sandwich and the Brayton Point plant in Somerset, continue to emit mercury, which tends to spread over a wide distance.
No one knows precisely what the long-term effects of this are on humans.