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Contact: Kevin Yam, Great Lakes Commission
Air pollution a major source of chemical contamination in Great Lakes
Research grants will help stem threat from mercury, other toxicsAnn Arbor, Mich. – Mercury is one of the most toxic airborne pollutants that can find its way into our waters and the food chain. Efforts to understand and mitigate the threat posed by it and other air toxics will receive a significant boost this year, thanks to more than $1.2 million in research grants from the Great Lakes Air Deposition (GLAD) Program.
An initiative of the Great Lakes Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), GLAD funds innovative research into airborne toxic pollution and its effects in the Great Lakes basin.
“Many of the toxic chemicals now entering the Great Lakes, including some of the most toxic, are mainly the result of air pollution,” said Steve Rothblatt, director of the Air and Radiation Division of USEPA Region 5. “The GLAD program helps generate the information we need to address these pollutants and informs decisions on measures to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem.”
Research funded under the program investigates the origins, behavior and ecological impacts of atmospherically deposited pollutants known as persistent bioaccumulative toxics (PBTs). These chemicals – which include mercury, dioxins, pesticides, flame retardants and others – tend to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate as they move up through the food chain, concentrating in the tissues of fish, wildlife and humans.
GLAD also provides a forum for scientists, resource managers and policymakers to exchange information needed to support each other’s efforts to protect the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Seven research projects have been selected for funding this year, three of which focus on mercury. Commonly released through the burning of coal, mercury has been linked with developmental and neurological impairments in wildlife and humans.
This year’s funding recipients are:
• Dr. Daniel Engstrom, of the St. Croix (Minn.) Watershed Research Station, will investigate the effect of sulfates on the movement of mercury into the food chain and subsequent accumulation in wildlife and humans. Collaborators will include the U.S. Forest Service, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Gustavus Adolphus College.
• Dr. Christopher Babiarz will lead a University of Wisconsin research team in assessing how the form of mercury deposited from the atmosphere affects the extent and rate at which mercury is taken into the food chain.
• Dr. Jerry Keeler of the University of Michigan, working with the Michigan Department of Environment Quality and a network of monitoring stations, will make improved estimates of dry mercury deposition, which may contribute as much mercury to the Great Lakes as rain-related deposition.
• Dr. Michelle Homan and Dr. Weslene Tallmadge, of Gannon University in Erie, Pa., will conduct one of the first studies evaluating whether atmospheric pollutants are inhibiting the recovery of an Area of Concern (AOC) by measuring levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) entering Presque Isle Bay.
• Dr. Judith Perlinger, of Michigan Technological University, will study Lake Superior levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a widely used flame retardant increasingly found in the air, water and wildlife around the world.
• Dr. Ronald Hites, of the University of Indiana, will monitor dioxin levels near three Great Lakes in order to estimate the amount of dioxins that are entering these lakes from the atmosphere, and the relative contributions of urban and rural sources.
• Dr. Basil Coutant, of Battelle research institute, will determine the sources of a wide range of pollutants in the Great Lakes basin, and the relative contribution of each type of source.
“This year’s projects reflect the diversity of issues involved in atmospheric deposition research,” said Dr. Michael J. Donahue, president/CEO of the Great Lakes Commission. “We look forward to working with USEPA and the larger Great Lakes community to support this critical research and its application to pressing resource management needs.”
For more information on the GLAD program, visit www.glc.org/glad
The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great LakesSt. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials and governors’ appointees from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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