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Turtles As Bioindicators of Mercury Pollution
Emily Gertz, 8 Nov 07

Biologists in South Carolina have made some findings that could have big ramifications for the regulation of industrial mercury pollution in the U.S.

As reported last week by Tony Bartelme in the Charleston, S.C. paper The Post and Courier, biologist David Owens and his studens at the College of Charleston have been taking blood samples and shell scrapings of turtles along the Eastern seaboard; they've discovered that "sea turtles captured near the mouths of rivers had higher mercury levels than those caught offshore. In estuaries they discovered that turtles near coal-fired power plants and other industrial sites also had elevated mercury levels."

This study may be one of the first to show that shell scrapings, like human hair, are reliable indicators of mecury levels in body tissues. One regional activist hopes these new data about mercury will help bring about more stringent regulation and cleanup of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and other localized sources:

"Once people link local mercury contamination to local mercury-spewing plants, pressure will increase to clean those plants up, and that costs money," said Blan Holman, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

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