Lead paint still kills Midway albatrosses

This is a Laysan albatross video.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lead paint still killing thousands of rare seabirds on Midway Island – outrage must end now say conservation groups

02/02/2010 08:47:34

10,000 Laysan Albatross chicks die every year

February 2010. As many as 130,000 Laysan Albatross chicks have been killed by lead paint flakes from 70 deadly lead paint-contaminated buildings since jurisdiction of Midway was transferred from the US Navy to the US Department of the Interior (DOI) in 1996.

Leading U.S. bird conservation group, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), and two Hawaiian groups – the Conservation Council for Hawai’i and Hawai’i Audubon Society, have renewed calls to Congress to provide funding to clean up on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.


“Curious Albatross chicks are ingesting the lead-based paint chips, which causes a variety of painful ailments and ultimately, a slow death,” said Dr. Jessica Hardesty Norris, Seabird Program Director for ABC.

Many of the chicks on Midway exhibit a condition called “droopwing”, which leaves them unable to lift their wings. Unable to fly, many die of starvation and dehydration.

10,000 birds die every year

The area encompassing Midway and its waters was included in President George Bush’s designation of the North-western Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument in 2006. Despite Midway’s designation as a National Wildlife Refuge and its location with the marine national monument, about 10,000 of these rare birds needlessly die there each year.

In a paper to be released in the scientific journal, Animal Conservation, Dr. Myra Finkelstein of the University of California-Santa Cruz and co-authors, including scientists and managers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, concluded that the death of Laysan Albatross chicks from lead exposure on Midway has long-term consequences for the nesting population of Laysan Albatrosses there. By 2060, there may be as many as 190,000 fewer albatrosses due to lead poisoning. By contrast, removing lead-based paint now could increase the population by up to 360,000 by 2060.

“The death of thousands of seabirds is contrary to the purpose of our National Wildlife Refuge System. We are preparing a letter to members of Congress to bring this matter again to their attention in the hopes that they can find a way to clean up Midway and stop the needless suffering of innocent birds,” said Marjorie Ziegler of the Conservation Council for Hawai’i.

70% world’s population of Laysan Albatross nest on Midway

About 70 percent of the world’s population of Laysan Albatrosses nests on Midway. The IUCN-World Conservation Union lists the species as globally vulnerable to extinction.

The DOI estimates that $5.6 million is needed to clean up the toxic lead paint on Midway Atoll. Approximately 70 of the federally-owned buildings must be stripped of all lead-based paint, and sand surrounding these old buildings needs to be thoroughly sifted to remove paint chips. DOI officials have stated that the current federal budget for the nation’s wildlife refuge system is insufficient to prevent the continued ingestion of lead paint by Laysan Albatross chicks.

“We strongly encourage Congress to pay close attention to the important scientific conclusions of today’s Animal Conservation paper on Laysan Albatrosses and enact a meaningful appropriation to address this severe and well documented wildlife hazard in Hawaii,” said John Harrison, President of Hawai’i Audubon Society.

See also here.

Plastic ingestion by Laysan Albatross chicks on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, in 1994 and 1995: here.

A new study has correlated high lead exposure among Detroit children in their early years to later school-age learning deficits: here.

Lead paint is making New York City’s children sick — and some landlords see it as the cost of doing business: here.

16 thoughts on “Lead paint still kills Midway albatrosses

  1. Lead paint threatening albatrosses on Midway could cost $12 million to remove

    By Associated Press

    POSTED: 09:36 p.m. HST, Jan 19, 2011

    A federal study estimates it will cost $8 million to $12 million to clean up lead paint that threatens Laysan albatross chicks at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

    The study released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday says it will take up to six years to clean up lead-based paint from about 86 buildings at the remote island.

    Most of the structures were built between 1939 and 1993 when the atoll some 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu was a U.S. Navy base.

    Lead-based paint was used on most of the buildings.

    Midway is now a wildlife refuge home to the world’s largest Laysan albatross nesting colony. As many as 10,000 chicks, or up to 3 percent of the atoll’s hatchlings, die from lead poisoning each year.


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