Toxic Rain

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A new report says rainfall in East Coast states, including Florida, is laden with toxic levels of mercury and poses significant threats to wildlife and humans who consume it.

The National Wildlife Federation has done an analysis of rainfall data collected from 12 states between 1995 and 2001. It says mercury is commonly present in precipitation at levels far exceeding the federal government's threshold for lakes and streams.

In Florida, the report draws on information gathered at four rainfall sampling stations. Three are in South Florida and one at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Citrus County. Of the samples collected, 97 percent exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended human health standard for mercury in lakes.

Blood samples taken from Florida panthers in a 1995 study found that 24 of the state's estimated 60 cats had levels of mercury that could impair reproductive functions. Another study found that mercury in fish and alligator meat has been found at levels exceeding recommended state and federal allowances for human consumption.