A new study of pigeons by Fayme Cai and Rebecca Calisi in New York City shows that levels of lead in the birds track with neighborhoods where children show high levels of lead exposure. In their study the researchers used feral pigeon (Columba livia) as a lead bioindicator in New York City. They collected blood lead level records from 825 visibly ill or abnormally behaving pigeons from various NYC neighborhoods between 2010 and 2015. They found that blood lead levels were significantly higher during the summer, an effect reported in children. Even miniscule amounts of lead are extremely detrimental to child health.
The researchers provide support for the use of the feral pigeon as a bioindicator of environmental lead contamination for the first time in the U.S. and for the first time anywhere in association with rates of elevated blood lead levels in children. They say this information has the potential to enable measures to assess, strategize, and potentially circumvent the negative impacts of lead and other environmental contaminants on human and wildlife communities. The research provide a powerful example of how monitoring pigeon biology may help us to better understand the location and prevalence of lead, with the aim of providing greater awareness and devising prevention measures.
Details appear in the latest edition of journal Chemosphere