PCBs found in dead eagle near Hudson Toxic chemical linked to deformities in birds


The body of a young bald eagle killed along the upper Hudson River contained high concentrations of PCBs, a toxic industrial chemical that is the Hudson's last significant taint, New York state environmental scientists have reported.

The finding, although limited to one eagle, is significant, the scientists said, because similar levels of PCBs in eagles or eagle eggs from polluted areas of the Great Lakes have been linked to reproductive problems and deformities in the birds. The scientists said they were concerned about PCB contamination of eagles because, after nearly a century in which the birds of prey were only rarely seen along the Hudson, eagles have begun nesting on its banks in the last few years.

This spring saw the first known successful hatching of an eaglet along the river in 100 years, but state biologists noted many other failed mating attempts.

A federal wildlife biologist and a spokesman for General Electric, whose factories were the source of most of the PCBs in the river, said that more data should be collected before conclusions about the risks of PCBs were drawn.

The tested bird was about 16 weeks old when it was apparently struck by a train on the river bank in late June, said Ward Stone, a toxicologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The elevated PCB levels, mainly in the brain and fat of the eagle, conform with other recent research along the Hudson showing that the compounds are making their way from fish and aquatic insects into wildlife, Stone said.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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