Date: 14 Jun 2004

Phosphorus Amendment Reduces Bioavailability of Lead to Mallards Ingesting Contaminated Sediments

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Lead poisoning of waterfowl has been reported for decades in the Coeur d’Alene River Basin in Idaho as a result of the ingestion of lead-contaminated sediments. We conducted a study to determine whether the addition of phosphoric acid to sediments would reduce the bioavailability of lead to mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). When sediments were amended with 1% phosphorus under laboratory conditions, and diets containing 12% amended sediment were fed to mallards, reductions in tissue lead were 43% in blood, 41% in liver, and 59% in kidney with sediment containing about 4,520 μg/g lead on a dry-weight basis and 41, 30, and 57% with sediment containing about 6,990 μg/g lead. When sediments were treated with phosphorus and left to age for about 5 months in the field, reductions in lead were 56% in blood, 54% in liver, and 66% in kidney at one site with about 5,390 μg/g lead and 64, 57, and 77% at a second site with about 6,990 μg/g lead. In the field, the inability to mix the phosphoric acid uniformly and deeply enough into the sediment may have resulted in more than 1% phosphorus being added to the sediment. Although both lab and field amendments of phosphorus substantially reduced the bioavailability of lead, lead concentrations in the tissues of mallards fed the amended sediments were still above those believed to be harmful to waterfowl. Based on earlier studies of sediment toxicity to waterfowl in the Coeur d’Alene River Basin, combined with the results of our amendment study, the addition of phosphoric acid as we used it might only significantly benefit waterfowl where sediments or soils contain less than 1,000–2,000 μg/g lead.