Bald Eagles Return after DDT Ban but Are Threatened by Lead Poisoning, Scientists Transform Rice Husks into Fertile Soil, and More

Bald eagle population levels are recovering but are now threatened by poisoning from lead shot in waterfowl, a new holistic detoxification method is offered, the Infant Feeding Rights Act is debated in Washington, Kenya proposes banning poisons, volunteers in San Joaquin remove weeds to avoid herbicide use, time-temperature monitors may replace sell-by dates, Penn State offers free information on pest control, scientists transform rice husks into fertile soil, the U.S. ignores its acid rain problem, and more news.


Bald eagle populations have been recovering since the ban of DDT, but are now threatened by lead poisoning from shot waterfowl.


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Bald Eagle Returning to Mid-Atlantic Region

Naturalists are (cautiously!) reporting that the majestic birds are beginning to return to the mid-Atlantic region after a decade of the nationwide ban on the pesticide DDT. A promising number of sightings (of both individual eagles and breeding pairs) have been reported in Connecticut, and along the Hudson and Delaware Rivers.

Lead Shot in Waterfowl Poisoning Bald Eagles

Unfortunately, the comeback of our national symbol may be jeopardized by another menace: A significant number of the eagle deaths analyzed over the past 15 years can—it seems—be attributed to lead poisoning. The birds become contaminated after feeding on waterfowl that have ingested, or been shot with, lead pellets. Sadly, although a staffer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped collect these findings, it appears (as reported in this column last issue) that this agency is backing away from its former program that urged the use of steel—rather than lead—shot.

Holistic Detoxification Method

A regimen consisting of exercise, sauna baths, nutritional supplements, and gradually increased doses of niacin (vitamin B3, which is believed to promote the release of chemicals from tissues) may actually cleanse the body of toxic accumulations of environmental pollutants. Dr. Max Ben, senior science advisor for the Foundation for Advancement in Science and Education, is developing such a program, and MOTHER plans to keep a close eye on his progress.

Washington Considers Breastfeeding Bill

A pioneering piece of legislation is being debated by the Washington, D.C. City Council. Called the Infant Feeding Rights Act, the bill, which is (not surprisingly) being opposed by the infant-formula industry, would insure mothers the "right to choose and practice a method of infant feeding without undue commercial influence," such as the free samples and literature regularly given out at hospitals. It also gives women control over sedation, lactation suppressants, and access to their newborns. Groups wishing to promote similar legislation in their own areas may write to the D.C. Infant Formula Action Coalition.

Time-Temperature Monitors May Replace "Sell-By" Dates

Time-temperature monitors that turn different colors as perishable products age and/or become exposed to harmful temperatures may soon be found on many packages. Cornell University researchers have tested the indicators on pasteurized milk and say they are practical not only for dairy products, but possibly for meat, fish, frozen foods, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, film, and human blood as well.

Kenyan Legislation to Ban Poisons

Kenyans have had enough, and a new Pesticide Products Control Bill is now being drawn up that would ban the sale of unsafe pesticides and other hazardous chemical products. The Kenyan Parliament is working on the legislation in an attempt to keep this African nation from being further victimized by unscrupulous foreign firms that market such goods to unregulated Third World countries.

San Joaquin Volunteers Remove Weeds to Stop Herbicide Use

Closer to home, in California's San Joaquin River Delta, residents who wanted to halt the spraying of 2,4-D came up with an alternative to the herbicide: muscle power. Volunteers have donated their own boats, time, and labor to help remove the water hyacinth that's clogging the waterway!

Free Information on Vertebrate Pest Control

If meadow mice nibbled on your cornstalks this year—or if moles have been turning your lawn into a miniature golf course—this series of fact sheets covering the biology and control of such creatures should help. Request the Pennsylvania Wildlife Nuisance and Damage Control literature (series 1-16) from the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension.

Fertile Soil from Rice Husks

Scientists in Japan, attempting to meet the problem of desert encroachment on farmland, are turning rice (and other grain) husks—which are usually considered a nuisance by farmers—into a "soil" that has doubled the normal harvest of cucumbers at an experimental station near Tokyo. When baked, the husks turn into a spongelike material with a remarkable capacity for absorbing water, sunlight, and air. A full 1,000 square meters of cropland can be "created" with less than one dollar's worth of rice husks, which are mixed with dirt and laid over vinyl sheeting on top of the sand.

U.S. Ignoring Acid Rain Problem

A recent study by the Environmental Law Institute reveals that, of the major industrial countries in Europe and North America, the United States alone has disregarded the new research on acid rain damage. And, while countries such as West Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Canada are working toward reducing acid rain, the U.S. is actually allowing the release of more of the pollutants that cause the harmful precipitation.

More Bits and Pieces

The Audubon Leader reports that 14 species of mammals, 9 types of fish, 8 kinds of reptiles and amphibia, and 269 kinds of birds have been identified in New York City's Central Park.

A recent Lou Harris Poll reveals that 94% of the people interviewed want to keep the Clean Water Act at least as strong as it is now.

Analysis of skeletons that were excavated last year gives the first direct evidence to support the theory that lead poisoning contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.