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The relationship between perfluorinated chemical levels in the feathers and livers of birds from different trophic levels

Meyer, Johan, Jaspers, Veerle L.B., Eens, Marcel, de Coen, Wim
Science of the total environment 2009 v.407 no.22 pp. 5894-5900
Ardeidae, Larus argentatus, Pica pica, bioaccumulation, diet, doves, feathers, habitats, heavy metals, indicator species, liver, perfluorocarbons, pollutants, trophic relationships, Belgium
Although feathers have been used successfully for monitoring heavy metals and organic pollutants, there are currently no data available on the use of feathers as indicators of perfluorinated chemical (PFC) exposure in birds. Also, no study has evaluated PFC levels in birds with different diets from different habitats. In the current study we investigated the PFC exposure of five different bird species from the same geographic region in Belgium, using both feathers and liver tissue. The highest mean liver perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) levels were found in the Grey Heron (476ng/g ww) followed by the Herring Gull (292ng/g ww) and Eurasian Sparrowhawk (236ng/g ww), whereas the Eurasian Magpie (17ng/g ww) and the Eurasian Collared Dove (12ng/g ww) had the lowest levels. The PFOS levels in the feathers showed a different pattern. The Grey Heron had the highest feather PFOS levels (247ng/g dw), the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (102ng/g dw) had the second highest feather PFOS levels, followed by the Herring Gull (79ng/g dw) and the Eurasian Collared Dove (48ng/g dw), and the lowest levels were found in the Eurasian Magpie (31ng/g dw). Overall, there was a significant positive correlation (Pearson, R =0.622, p <0.01) between the feather and liver PFOS levels, indicating that feathers could be an alternative bioindicator for PFOS exposure in birds. However, caution should be taken as there was no significant correlation between the PFOS levels in the feathers and livers of the individual species. In general, birds from a higher trophic level had higher PFC levels in their tissues. This indicates that diet plays a role in PFC exposure in birds and confirms the bioaccumulation potential of PFC.