Chlorinated Hydrocarbon Contaminants in Grebes and Seaducks Wintering on the Coast of British Columbia, Canada: 1988–1993

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Grebe and seaduck species were collected during late winter at industrial and reference sites along coastal British Columbia, and during spring migration in the Yukon Territory, from 1988 to 1993. Liver and/or breast muscle were analyzed for polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzofurans (PCDFs), biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine (OC) pesticides, and chlorophenol-related compounds. Piscivorous species, including western grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and common mergansers (Mergus merganser), contained highest levels of all contaminants. DDE and PCBs were detectable in all species analyzed, but were at low levels (<50 and 100 μg/kg [sum PCBs] wet weight, respectively) in all but some grebe and merganser samples. Highest DDE concentration (229 μg/kg) was in liver of common mergansers collected at Port Alberni in 1989, and that of PCB (2300 μg/kg) in breast muscle of western grebes collected in 1992 from the same site. The interspecific PCDD/PCDF pattern was similar to that of the OC pesticides and PCBs, with the fish-eating species containing highest concentrations. The only congener detected in all samples was 2,3,7,8-TCDF, although 2,3,7,8-TCDD was regularly present. Generally, of all samples collected in 1989, those from the bleached-kraft pulp mill (BKPM) site at Port Alberni were the most contaminated with PCDDs and PCDFs. Of the chlorophenolic compounds measured, only pentachlorophenol was routinely detected, typically at levels below 5 μg/kg. Traces of 3,4,5,6-tetrachloroguaiacol, 5-chloroguaiacol and 4,5-dichloroguaiacol were also detected in a few samples, mainly from a BKPM site at Prince Rupert. By 1992, after changes to pulp mill bleaching processes and restrictions in chlorophenolic anti-sapstain use, PCDD and PCDF concentrations were substantially lower compared to 1989 in all species sampled and no longer posed a concern for human consumers. International TCDD-toxic equivalents (I-TEQs) in some western grebe samples were within the range of concentrations associated with sublethal effects in waterbird species (200–400 ng/kg).

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