Accumulation of Environmental Contaminants in Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) Eggs, with Emphasis on Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans

  • T. P. Augspurger
  • K. R. Echols
  • P. H. Peterman
  • T. W. May
  • C. E. Orazio
  • D. E. Tillitt
  • R. T. Di Giulio


We measured polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, and mercury in wood duck (Aix sponsa) eggs collected near a North Carolina (USA) bleached kraft paper mill. Samples were taken a decade after the mill stopped using molecular chlorine. Using avian toxic equivalency factors, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin toxicity equivalent (TEQ) concentrations were 1–30 pg/g fresh wet weight in eggs (= 48) collected near the mill in 2002–2005 and were significantly higher than those from a reference site (<1 pg/g) 25 km away. Geometric mean wood duck egg TEQs (6 pg/g) were one-fifth those measured at this site prior to the cessation of molecular chlorine bleaching. Concentrations of mercury in wood duck eggs from nests of the Roanoke River sites ranged from 0.01 to 0.14 μg/g (geometric mean, 0.04 μg/g) and were significantly higher than those from the reference site, where concentrations did not exceed 0.04 μg/g (geometric mean, 0.02 μg/g). All concentrations were lower than those associated with adverse effects in birds. The congener profiles, lack of contamination in reference site eggs, and decline in contaminant concentrations after process changes at the mill provide strong evidence that mill discharges influenced contamination of local wood duck eggs. Collectively, the results indicate that the wood duck is an effective sentinel of the spatial and temporal extent of PCDD, PCDF, and mercury contamination.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. P. Augspurger
    • 1
    • 2
  • K. R. Echols
    • 3
  • P. H. Peterman
    • 3
  • T. W. May
    • 3
  • C. E. Orazio
    • 3
  • D. E. Tillitt
    • 3
  • R. T. Di Giulio
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Integrated Toxicology Program, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Columbia Environmental Research CenterColumbiaUSA

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