Spatiotemporal patterns and relationships among the diet, biochemistry, and exposure to flame retardants in an apex avian predator, the peregrine falcon

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Flame retardants (FR) are industrial chemicals and some are proven environmental contaminants that accumulate in predatory birds. Few studies have examined the influence of diet on FR profiles in nestling raptors and the possible physiological implications of such FR exposure. The objectives of this research were (1) to determine spatial patterns of ≤ 48 polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners and ≤ 26 non-PBDE FRs, including organophosphate esters (OPEs), in nestling peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) across the Canadian Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin (GL-SLR; 2010) and in the eastern Canadian Arctic (2007); (2) to identify temporal changes in FR concentrations from the mid-2000s to 2010 in GL-SLR peregrine nestlings; (3) to investigate the role of diet using stable isotopes on exposure patterns of quantifiable FRs; and (4) to assess possible associations between circulating FRs and total (T) thyroxine (TT4) and triiodothyronine (TT3), tocopherol, retinol and oxidative status (isoprostanes). The summed concentrations of the top 5 PBDEs (Σ5) (BDE-47, -99, -100, -154, -153) were significantly higher in rural nestlings than urban nestlings in the GL-SLR, followed by the eastern Arctic nestlings. The PBDE congener profile of rural nestlings was dominated by BDE-99 (34‰), whereas BDE-209 (31‰) became dominant in the 2010 urban PBDE profile marking a shift since the mid-2000s. Low (ppb) concentrations of 25 novel non-PBDE FRs (e.g., 1,2-bis-(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE), decabromodiphenylethane (DBDPE)) were measured in the nestlings in at least one region, with the first report in peregrines of 15 novel non-PBDE FRs (e.g., 2-ethyl-1-hyxyl 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (EHTBB), pentabromo allyl ether (PBPAE), tetrabromoethylcyclohexane (α-, β-DBE-DBCH)) as well as of tris (2-butoxyethyl) phosphate (TBOEP) (0–7.5 ng/g ww) > tris(2-chloroisopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP) (0.1–5.5 ng/g ww) > tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) (0.02–2.0 ng/g ww) > tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) (0–1.0 ng/g ww). Within the GL-SLR, the urban nestlings’ diet had significantly more terrestrial sources (greater δ13C values) than the broader, more aquatic-based diet of rural peregrines. Dietary source (δ13C) was significantly associated with concentrations of Σ5PBDE, BDE-209, EHTBB, and 2,2–4,4′,5,5′-hexabromobiphenyl (BB-153), with trophic level (δ15N) also positively associated with BDE-209 levels. Compared to urban nestlings, the rural nestlings had significantly lower circulating concentrations of thyroxine (TT4), triiodothyronine (TT3), a greater proportion of TT3 relative to TT4 (TT3:TT4), tocopherol and oxidative status (isoprostanes), but higher retinol levels; the most recalcitrant PBDE congener, BDE-153, in combination with low concentrations of some novel FRs, particularly octabromotrimethylphenyllindane (OBIND), may influence circulating thyroid hormones, especially TT4, and retinol levels of peregrine falcon nestlings. These associations of FR-endocrine-biochemical measures suggest possible exposure-related changes in these birds and further study is warranted.

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