Levels of Heavy Metals in Karelian Wildlife, 1989–91

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The levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, copper, nickel, zinc and iron were determined in samples of liver, kidney, skeletal muscle, heart, lungs and hair of moose (N = 67), reindeer (N = 45), brown bear (N = 18), wild boar (N = 10) and squirrel (N = 18) shot in Karelia from 1989 to 1991 during regular hunting. The highest heavy-metal concentrations were found in livers, kidney, lungs and hair samples. The samples of muscle contained lowest levels of these elements. The tissues of moose, reindeer and brown bear were contaminated with heavy metals to a greatest extent. Lowest levels of toxicants were recorded in wild boar. Results indicate a widespread presence of heavy metal in the environment and in wildlife, which may be linked to acid precipitation. There was no evidence of these elements accumulated to toxic levels, but Karelian public have been informed that the eating of moose liver and kidney would probably result in their exceeding WHO standard weekly intake limit for cadmium.

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