Researcher finds elevated levels of lead in Kailua Bay turtles
A study of Hawaiian green sea turtles in Kailua Bay using tissue dating back 10 years ago found traces of lead in their blood and shells.
Katherine Shaw is a researcher with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is based at Hawai‘i Pacific University.
She found the likely source of the lead is pellets left over from the old Honolulu Skeet Club. It was on the north end of the bay near Kaimalino Beach for over 40 years.
"We were able to chase some of the lead into the algae that the sea turtles are eating, it's in the sediment. So we have seen kind of this, a little bit through the food chain of Kailua Bay," she said.
Despite finding lead in the blood of these protected species, Shaw said there’s no immediate cause for panic.
"At first glance, it's 'oh my gosh, that's so bad.' But the levels weren't so so high that they were causing acute poisoning. These turtles are still living and foraging in this area, so it's not an instant death sentence for the turtles. I don't want to have people panicking because this is not like that," Shaw said.
"There's no good concentration of lead. Any amount of lead is toxic. It's something we need to be aware of and keep an eye on," Shaw added.
She said turtles in only three other areas around the world have lead concentrations greater than the ones in Kailua Bay.
This interview aired on The Conversation on May 16, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.