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Barbary sheep tissues as bioindicators of radionuclide and stabile element contamination in Croatia: exposure assessment for consumers

Abstract

Muscle, liver and kidney of 21 Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) from Mosor Mountain, Croatia, were sampled to quantify the activity of caesium and potassium radionuclides and five toxic and ten essential stabile elements in order to establish reference values for this species and to evaluate the potential of Barbary sheep tissues to reflect environmental pollution. We also assessed seasonal diet (botanical composition and dry matter content) of Barbary sheep based on analyses of a rumen content of culled animals. None of the 19 plant species (mostly grasses) identified as part of the Barbary sheep diet is known as a stabile element or radionuclide hyperaccumulator. Measured levels reflected low environmental pollution with arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, with levels generally less than those reported for wild herbivorous ungulates. Methodological differences (detection limit of elements in muscle) were shown to hamper interpretation and comparison of the Toxic Contamination Index (TCI) values with those published for other species. There was no homeostasis disturbance of trace elements in Barbary sheep, either due to inadequate intake via food or as an adverse effect due to a high toxic metal(loid) burden. Consumption of the muscle and liver of wild Barbary sheep can be considered safe for the health of adult consumers regarding toxic metal(loid)s and radioactive caesium, though the liver should be avoided as a food item in vulnerable population groups due to the possible adverse effects of cadmium and lead. Otherwise, muscle and liver are a rich source of copper, iron, selenium and zinc for consumers and, as such, can benefit the overall dietary intake of essential elements.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Mr. Miro Olujić (Dalmacijalov Ltd.) for his invaluable assistance in providing the samples and in the field work, Ms. Brankica Šošić and Ms. Tija Mlinac for their botanical assistance and Mr. Erich Klansek (Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, Vienna) for the diet analysis.

Funding

Financial support for the chemical analyses carried out in this study was made by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia through Institutional Funding made available to the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health is acknowledged.

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Lazarus, M., Gančević, P., Orct, T. et al. Barbary sheep tissues as bioindicators of radionuclide and stabile element contamination in Croatia: exposure assessment for consumers. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 14521–14533 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-04507-5

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Keywords

  • Ammotragus lervia
  • Exotic species
  • Toxic Contamination Index
  • Environmental pollution
  • Ungulate
  • Metal accumulation