Uptake of planar polychlorinated biphenyls and 2,3,7,8-substituted polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dibenzo-p -dioxins by birds nesting in the lower fox river and Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA

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The uptake of persistent polychlorinated hydrocarbons (PCHs) by four avian species was investigated at upper trophic levels of two aquatic food chains of the lower Fox River and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Accumulation of total and specific planar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin (PCDDs), and H411E rat hepatoma cell bioassay-derived 2,37,8-tetrachlorodibenzop-dioxin equivalents (TCDD-EQ) was evaluated in Forster's tern (Sterna forsteri) and common tern (Sterna hirundo) chicks, and in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) and red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) nestlings from colonies nesting in several locations within the watershed. Concentrations of the PCHs were greatest in eggs and chicks of the two tern species, less in the tree swallows and least in the red-winged blackbirds. Young of all four species accumulated total PCBs, PCB congeners 77, 105, 126, and 169, and TCDD-EQ. The young birds also accumulated small concentrations of several 2,3,7,8-sbustituted PCDF and PCDD congeners. Uptake rates for certain of the PCHs for the Forster's tern chicks were: 15 μg/day for total PCBs, 70, 200, 6.5, and 0.14 ng/day for PCB congeners 77, 105, 126, and 169, respectively, and 270 μg/day for TCDD-EQ. Principal components analysis revealed that the patterns of PCH concentrations in the samples were influenced by species of bird, their age (or length of exposure) and nesting location. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that exposure of avian species to contaminants derived from aquatic food chains can be characterized and quantified for the purposes of ecological risk assessment.