With the exception of both eating garbage and pooping on everything, you rarely have a reason to compare you kid to pigeons. But when researchers from UC Davis and Columbia University looked at 825 sick pigeons in New York City, what they learned was more upsetting than having that many gross birds in one place. The study, published in the journal Chemosphere, found that children from the same neighborhoods had comparable lead levels in their blood.
Pigeons’ lead levels were compared with data obtained by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 1000 kids from the same zip codes. Neighborhoods with high levels of lead in pigeons also displayed the highest levels in children, and both groups experienced similar lead increases during the summer — so welcome to lead season? It’s tempting to assume that this was more an issue for poorer areas, but the results showed that the lead concentration was nearly double in affluent neighborhoods such as Soho and Greenwich Village than it was in the South Bronx. High property value can’t even buy you healthy pigeons these days.
It’s important to note that researchers found a correlation, not to be confused with causation. Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of these findings is that experts aren’t exactly sure what’s causing the pattern. Older buildings with lead paint, polluted water, and industrial compounds in the air have all been cited as potential sources, but more studies need to be done. The good news is that this isn’t the first time pigeons have played research assistant with pollution (they even wear backpacks). It’s about time they got a job.
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