2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin equivalents in tissues of birds at Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA

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Abstract

The environment has become contaminated with complex mixtures of planar, chlorinated hydrocarbons (PCHs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and structurally similar compounds. Because the potencies of individual congeners to cause the same adverse effects vary greatly and the relative as well as absolute concentrations of individual PCH vary among samples from different locations, it is difficult to assess the toxic effects of these mixtures on wildlife. These compounds can cause a number of adverse effects, however, because the toxic effects which occur at ecologically-relevant concentrations such as embryo-lethality and birth defects appear to be mediated through the same mechanism, the potency of individual congeners can be reported relative to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) which is the most toxic congener in the PCH class. The concentations of 2,3,7,8-TCDD Equivalents (TCDD-EQ) were determined in the tissues of aquatic and terrestrial birds of Green Bay, Wisconsin by the H4IIE bioassay system and compared toxic equivalency factors (TEFs) with the concentration predicted by the use of toxic equivalency factors applied to concentrations of PCH, which were determined by instrumental analyses. Concentrations of TCDD-EQ ranged from 0.52 to 440 ng/kg, wet weight. The greatest concentrations occurred in the fish-eating birds. Concentrations of TCDD-EQ, which were determined by the two methods were significantly correlated, but the additive model which used the TEFs with concentrations of measured PCB, PCDD and PCDF congeners underestimated the concentrations of TCDD-EQ measured by the H4IIE bioassay by an average of 57%. This is thought to be due to contributions from un-quantified PCH, which are known to occur in the environment. Of the quantified PCH congeners, PCDD and PCDF contributed a small portion of the TCDD-EQ in the aquatic birds, while most of the TCDD-EQ were due to non-ortho-substituted PCBs. In the terrestrial birds, the proportion of the TCDD-EQ contributed by the PCDD and PCDF was greater.

This paper has been reviewed in accord with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy. Mention of specific products or trade names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.