June 30, 2010
Hundreds of kangaroos have been euthanized due to acute fluoride poisoning in the Australian state of Victoria, the country’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has announced.
The poisonings appear to be occurring due to emissions of fluoride from the Alcoa aluminum smelter at Portland and the Austral Bricks factory at Craigieburn, the state’s first and second biggest emitters of fluoride dust, respectively. According to Bruce Dawson of the EPA, the toxic chemical is being absorbed by nearby plants that kangaroos and other animals forage on. The animals may also be breathing in the chemical directly.
The levels of fluoride being emitted by Alcoa and Austral are fully legal under Australian law. The smelter emits 120 tons of the dust per year, while the factory emits 66 tons.
Fluoride can produce discoloration and deformity of teeth and bones, a problem known as “fluorosis” that has been well documented in cattle and humans. According to the Sunday Age, more than 200 kangaroos in Victoria have been euthanized after suffering from lameness caused by fluorosis.
The EPA was first alerted to the problem in 2005, although wildlife workers had noticed lameness in kangaroos in the area as early as 2001. According to Jenny Charles of Melbourne University, 90 percent of 130 kangaroos living near the Alcoa smelter showed signs of dental fluorosis, and 25 percent had visible lumps in their legs or arms.
Forty-eight of 49 kangaroos autopsied after being culled from the smelter area in a single day were suffering from excessive bone growth and lesions on their ankles, calves and paws.
”They were in real pain,” said wildlife shelter operator Manfred Zabinskas, recounting his horror at seeing so many sick kangaroos.
Although the kangaroos at the brick factory site had lower levels of fluoride in their bodies, their fluorosis symptoms were even worse than those seen near the smelter.
This article was posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 3:53 am