Chemical Toxicity in Maine Wildlife and Humans
February 3 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Silent Spring was first published over 60 years ago. Rachel Carson warned her readers that DDT, a widely-used insecticide, was disrupting ecosystems and endangering native species. DDT accumulates in the tissues of any creature that consumes it, so it builds up over time as more and more DDT-contaminated prey are eaten. Thus the toxicity gets biomagnified at each successive level of the food web, compromising the health and reproduction of the top predator species. The bald eagle population was reduced to just 417 known nesting pairs, before DDT was outlawed in this country.
Maine’s native wildlife (and humans!) are still threatened by substances that contaminate our natural resources, and then biomagnify up the food chain. Industrial mercury, blowing downwind and then settling out from smokestack emissions in the Midwest and Canada, continues to poison animals that forage in lakes and rivers throughout the state. Extremely high mercury concentrations in tested birds and fish in the lower Penobscot River estuary led to a public health advisory against consuming waterfowl from Mendall Marsh south to Verona Island, plus a closure of seven square miles of the lobster fishery in upper Penobscot Bay. Synthetic “forever chemicals,” known collectively as PFAS, have leached into Maine’s groundwater and soil in areas where PFAS-contaminated wastewater sludge was used to fertilize farm fields. The chemicals are taken up by plants, including crops eaten by both humans and livestock. Hunters in the Fairfield area were first warned last fall to avoid eating deer meat, due to unsafe levels of PFAS found in nearly all of the deer tested in that region. PFAS monitoring of wildlife in other areas of Maine is ongoing. And then there are the neonicotinoid pesticides, fungicides, and the herbicide glyphosphate (Roundup), all linked to the loss of honeybees and other pollinators.
Our speaker for this program, Dr. Dianne Kopec, is a Research Fellow at the George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine, and a Maine Audubon Trustee. Dianne is a wildlife biologist who studies the accumulation of toxic contaminants in native species. She will describe the results of her several decades of field research on mammals, fish, and birds, and take you on a whirlwind tour of the studies prompting concern about mercury, PFAS, neonicotinoid pesticides, and the herbicide glyphosphate. Please join us to learn the stories behind the headlines on introduced toxins that continue to poison native Maine wildlife…and humans.
Free and online; pre-register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEuce6sqDMtGdGPq7AoQuEvbiivnOasO287