Study: Contaminant Levels High in Parks
BILLINGS, Mont. -- Pesticides, heavy metals and other airborne contaminants are raining down on national parks across the West and Alaska, turning up at sometimes dangerously high levels in lakes, plants and fish.
A sweeping, six-year federal study released Tuesday found evidence of 70 contaminants in 20 national parks and monuments - from Denali in Alaska and Glacier in Montana, to Big Bend in Texas and Yosemite in California.
The findings revealed that some of the Earth's most pristine wilderness is still within reach of the toxic byproducts of the industrial age.
"Contaminants are everywhere. You can't get more remote than these northern parts of Alaska and the high Rockies," said Michael Kent, a fish researcher with Oregon State University who co-authored the study.
The substances detected ranged from mercury produced by power plants and industrial chemicals such as PCBs to the banned insecticides dieldrin and DDT. Those can cause health problems in humans including nervous system damage, dampened immune system responses and lowered reproductive success.
Contaminants that accumulated in fish exceeded human consumption thresholds at the eight parks that researchers focussed on most: Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Gates of the Arctic and Denali national parks and Alaska's Noatak National Preserve.
Also, mercury levels at the eight parks and DDT levels at Glacier and Sequoia and Kings Canyon exceeded health thresholds for fish-eating wildlife. Kent said he found airborne contaminants are causing male fish to develop female organs in some parks.