Lead Paint Killing Birds in New Marine National Monument
MIDWAY ATOLL, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, December 12, 2006 (ENS) - Lead
poisoning is killing thousands of Laysan albatrosses each year on Midway
Atoll, part of the new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National
Monument created by President George W. Bush in June.
The Laysan albatross is globally listed as vulnerable to extinction by the
IUCN-World Conservation Union, and is a special trust species on the Midway
Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the new monument.
"Laysan chicks raised in nests close to buildings left behind by the Navy
are ingesting lead-based paint chips. This is causing shockingly high lead
concentrations in their blood, leading to severe neurological disorders, and
eventual death," said George Fenwick, president of American Bird
Studies have shown that albatross chicks are eating the lead paint chips
that are peeling off of 95 aging buildings on the island.
The 95 government buildings must be stripped of all lead-based paint, and
sand surrounding these old buildings must be sifted to remove lead paint
The American Bird Conservancy estimates that 10,000 chicks, or five percent
of hatched chicks, may be killed annually by exposure to the leaded paint.
Laysan chicks that nest within 15 feet of the old buildings exhibit a
condition called "droopwing." The chicks cannot raise their wings, which
drag on the ground, resulting in broken bones and open sores.
Chicks with droopwing will never be able to fly, and will die of starvation
"This level of mortality in Laysan chicks hinders efforts to conserve this
species and could have population-level impacts," said Jennifer Arnold,
director of American Bird Conservancy's Seabird Program. "Midway Atoll hosts
the largest nesting colony for this species in the world, making this
cleanup effort a top priority."
Other chicks that ingest paint chips have blood lead concentrations that
cause immunological, neurological, and renal impairments, decreasing their
chances of survival.
The American Bird Conservancy is calling for federal funding to clean up the
lead to protect the albatrosses and future visitors to the monument.
A draft plan that would allow a regularly scheduled visitor program on
Midway Atoll was released Friday for public comment. Up to 30 overnight
guests would be permitted on Midway at any one time during 2007, and
possibly higher numbers in the future.
The Department of the Interior estimates that $5.6 million is needed to
clean up the lead paint on Midway.