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Accumulation of PBDEs in stranded harp (Pagophilus groenlandicus) and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) from the Northeastern United States

Soulen, Brianne K., Venables, Barney J., Johnston, David W., Roberts, Aaron P.
Marine environmental research 2018 v.138 pp. 96-101
Cystophora cristata, Pagophilus groenlandicus, bioaccumulation, blubber, bromination, coasts, developmental stages, disease susceptibility, energy, flame retardants, gastrointestinal system, immune system, lipophilicity, liver, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, seals, toxic substances, yearlings, Arctic region, Northeastern United States
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are highly lipophilic components of brominated flame retardants that are environmentally persistent and bioaccumulate. PBDEs are taken up from the gastrointestinal tract and accumulate mainly in fat depots and liver tissues. Seal species inhabiting Arctic and sub-Arctic regions can have upwards of 30% of their body mass composed of blubber. When those blubber stores are mobilized for energy, stored toxicants are also released into circulation. Most studies reporting accumulation of PBDEs in seals have focused on harbor and grey seals with few examining harp and hooded seals. In this study, PBDEs concentrations were analyzed in seal blubber from 21 stranded harp and 9 stranded hooded seals sampled along the northeast coast of the U.S. (1999–2010). A PBDE congener profile was determined for each individual. The results show that both species of seals are accumulating PBDEs with BDE-47 being the dominant congener. Mean ƩPBDE concentrations in harp seals were 70.55 ± 33.59 ng/g ww and for hooded seals 94.28 ± 42.65 ng/g ww. The results of this study are consistent with previous studies reporting a decrease in bioaccumulation with an increase in bromination. For both species, BDE-47 represented the highest percentage of the ƩPBDEs, composing over 50% of the ƩPBDEs in harp seals. When compared to stranding condition code, animals found alive had overall higher PBDE concentrations than those found in a state of moderate decomposition. This difference could be due to decreased blubber levels in the decomposed animals or potential degradation of the compounds in the blubber. Almost all seals used in this study were yearlings which is the most likely age class to strand. Yearling seals are at a crucial stage of development, especially of their immune system, which can be impacted by high levels of contaminants like PBDEs and increase the susceptibility to disease.