Appleton, Minn. -- Pollutants from the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago are showing up in Minnesota birds that migrate to the gulf.

Researchers for the state Department of Natural Resources have found evidence of petroleum compounds and the chemical used to clean up the oil in the eggs of pelicans nesting in Minnesota.

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Scientists are looking for pollutants on a western Minnesota lake that is home to the largest colony of American white pelicans in North America. About 34,000 adult pelicans will raise about 17,000 chicks this year on islands in Marsh Lake.

The area is a perfect place to look for oil spill effects. Most of the birds spend winters in the Gulf of Mexico, from Cuba to Texas. Young pelicans spend a full year on the gulf before they start breeding.

Pollutants inside the eggs could be a big problem, said Mark Clark, an ecologist at North Dakota State University who studies pelican eggs. Clark is helping DNR researchers look for oil-

related contaminants.

"Even if they're present in small amounts they may have a large impact on the development (of pelican chicks)," he said.

Scientists are most concerned about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals. The other contaminant they're testing for is Corexit, a dispersant used to break up oil slicks on the water that the Environmental Protection Agency says contains cancer-

causing chemicals and

endocrine-disrupting compounds. Endocrine disruptors can disrupt the hormone balance and affect embryo development.

Clark said very little research has been done on how petroleum affects developing bird embryos. Scientists don't yet know how the effects might show up in newly hatched bird.

But he said tiny amounts of specialized hormones guide the chicks development in the egg, so there's a good chance adding pollutants to the eggs will increase the risk of damage to the embryos.

"Any contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that's where the developing embryo and chick starts," Clark said. "And when things go wrong at that stage there's usually no recovery."

Petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested. Nearly 80 percent of the eggs contained the chemical dispersant used in the gulf.

Appleton, Minn. -- Pollutants from the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago are showing up in Minnesota birds that migrate to the gulf.

Researchers for the state Department of Natural Resources have found evidence of petroleum compounds and the chemical used to clean up the oil in the eggs of pelicans nesting in Minnesota.

Scientists are looking for pollutants on a western Minnesota lake that is home to the largest colony of American white pelicans in North America. About 34,000 adult pelicans will raise about 17,000 chicks this year on islands in Marsh Lake.

The area is a perfect place to look for oil spill effects. Most of the birds spend winters in the Gulf of Mexico, from Cuba to Texas. Young pelicans spend a full year on the gulf before they start breeding.

Pollutants inside the eggs could be a big problem, said Mark Clark, an ecologist at North Dakota State University who studies pelican eggs. Clark is helping DNR researchers look for oil-

*elated contaminants.

"Even if they're present in small amounts they may have a large impact on the development (of pelican chicks)," he said.

Scientists are most concerned about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals. The other contaminant they're testing for is Corexit, a dispersant used to break up oil slicks on the water that the Environmental Protection Agency says contains cancer-

causing chemicals and

endocrine-disrupting compounds. Endocrine disruptors can disrupt the hormone balance and affect embryo development.

Clark said very little research has been done on how petroleum affects developing bird embryos. Scientists don't yet know how the effects might show up in newly hatched bird.

But he said tiny amounts of specialized hormones guide the chicks development in the egg, so there's a good chance adding pollutants to the eggs will increase the risk of damage to the embryos.

"Any contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that's where the developing embryo and chick starts," Clark said. "And when things go wrong at that stage there's usually no recovery."

Petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested. Nearly 80 percent of the eggs contained the chemical dispersant used in the gulf.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard in Duluth at 100.5 FM or online at MPRNews.org.