Current status of PCB toxicity to mink, and effect on their reproduction

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Abstract

Experiments were conducted from 1968 to 1974 to investigate reproductive complications and mortality in mink fed Great Lakes coho salmon and to ascertain the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) on this fur bearer. The results of mink feeding trials indicated that coho salmon, as such, were not responsible for the loss of reproduction in the adult, or the kit mortality. Mink diets that contained other species of Great Lakes fish caused similar reproductive complications, but to a lesser degree.

Rancidity, mercury poisoning and chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide contamination of the fish were all discounted as being responsible for the problem. The clinical signs and lesions noted in mink that died while receiving diets that contained Lake Michigan coho salmon were very similar to those observed in mink fed on rations that contained supplemental PCB's. These included anorexia, bloody stools, fatty liver, kidney degeneration, and hemorrhagic gastric ulcers. Analyses of tissues from mink that died when fed 30% Lake Michigan coho salmon or 30 ppm supplemental PCB diets showed similar PCB residues.

PCB toxicity experiments revealed that mink are very sensitive to these compounds and that the lethal dose varied inversely with the chlorine content of the PCB's although only Aroclor 1254 exerted a detrimental effect on reproduction when fed at a low level (2 ppm) for 8 months. The reproductive failure encountered in feeding mink Lake Michigan coho salmon and Aroclor 1254 was shown to be of a non-permanent nature.

Published with the approval of theMichigan Agriculture Experiment Station as Journal Article No. 7778.