, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 351-360
Date: 04 Jun 2010

Lead and Copper in Pigeons (Columbia livia) Exposed to a Small Arms–Range Soil

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Abstract

Small arms–range (SAR) soils can be contaminated with metals from spent copper (Cu)-jacketed bullets. Avian species are particularly at risk because they are exposed to lead (Pb) through ingestion of grit, soil intake from preening, or ingestion of contaminated food near ranges. Examination of the effects of Pb on birds at ranges have mainly focused on intake and toxicity of Pb shot pellets or fragments; however, Pb in soils may be an important pathway of exposure. To evaluate the uptake and effects of Pb from an actual range, the soil fraction (<250 μm) from a contaminated SAR soil was used to dose pigeons (Columbia livia) for 14 days at low (2700 μg Pb and 215 μg Cu/d) and high (5400 μg Pb and 430 μg Cu/d) doses. At the end of the study, blood Pb and erythrocyte protoporphyrin were determined, and tissues were analyzed for Pb and Cu. Results showed that Pb was absorbed in a dose–response manner in blood, tissues, and feathers, and erythrocyte protoporphyrin, a biomarker of early Pb effect, was increased at blood Pb levels >50 μg/dL. Four tissues showed differential retention of Pb, with kidney having the highest concentration followed by liver, brain, and heart, whereas Cu levels were not changed. To examine possible interactions with other metals, amendments of either Cu or tungstate were made to the soil sample. Although these amendments seemed to decrease the absorption of Pb, the results were ambiguous compared with sodium chloride controls. Overall, this study showed that intake of SAR soils contaminated with Pb and Cu causes an increase in Pb body burdens in birds and that the response can be modulated by amending soils with salts of metals.