Lead exposure in laysan albatross adults and chicks in Hawaii: Prevalence, risk factors, and biochemical effects

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Abstract

Prevalence of lead exposure and elevated tissue lead was determined in Laysan albatross (Diomedea immutabilis) in Hawaii. The relationship between lead exposure and proximity to buildings, between elevated blood lead and droopwing status, and elevated liver lead and presence of lead-containing paint chips in the proventriculus in albatross chicks was also examined. Finally, the effects of lead on the enzyme δ-amino-levulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) was determined. There was a significant association between lead exposure or elevated tissue lead and proximity to buildings in albatross chicks and presence of lead paint chips in the proventriculus and elevated liver lead in carcasses. Although there was a significant association between elevated blood lead and droopwing chicks, there were notable exceptions. Prevalence of elevated tissue lead in albatross chicks was highest on Sand Island Midway and much less so on Kauai and virtually nonexistent in other areas. Prevalence of lead exposure decreased as numbers of buildings to which chicks were exposed on a given island decreased. Laysan albatross adults had minimal to no lead exposure. There was a significant negative correlation between blood lead concentration and ALAD activity in chicks. Based on ALAD activity, 0.03–0.05 μg/ml was the no effect range for blood lead in albatross chicks.