Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 229–252

Chlorinated Hydrocarbons in Livers of American Mink (Mustela vison) and River Otter (Lutra canadensis) from the Columbia and Fraser River Basins, 1990–1992

  • J. E. Elliott
  • C. J. Henny
  • M. L. Harris
  • L. K. Wilson
  • R. J. Norstrom


We investigated chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants in aquatic mustelid species on the Fraser and Columbia Rivers of northwestern North America. Carcasses of river otter (Lutra canadensis) (N=24) and mink (Mustela vison) (N=34) were obtained from commercial trappers during the winters of 1990–91 and 1991–92. Pooled liver samples were analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), including non-ortho congeners, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Most samples contained detectable concentrations of DDE, PCBs, although there was substantial variability in patterns and trends among neighboring samples. Concentrations of DDE were in some mink and several otter samples from the lower Columbia River elevated (to 4700 μg/kg wet weight); excluding one mink sample from the Wenatchee area, mean DDE levels generally decreased between 1978–79 and 1990–92. PCBs were present in all samples. PCB concentrations in otter livers collected from the lower Columbia were ten-fold lower than measured a decade previously; nevertheless, a sample taken near Portland had a mean concentration of 1500 μg/kg, within a range of concentrations associated with reproductive effects in captive mink. Concentrations of 2,3,7,8-TCDD and TCDF were generally below detection limits, except for one otter collected near a pulp mill at Castlegar, on the upper Columbia, with 11 ng TCDD/kg in liver. Elevated concentrations of higher chlorinated PCDD/Fs, probably resulting from use of chlorophenolic wood preservatives, were found in both species; one otter sample from the lower Columbia had 2200 ng OCDD/kg. International TCDD toxic equivalent levels in mink (31 ng/kg) and otter (93 ng/kg) from the lower Columbia River approached toxicity thresholds for effects on reproduction in ranch mink.

mink otter organochlorines PLBS TCDD 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Elliott
  • C. J. Henny
  • M. L. Harris
  • L. K. Wilson
  • R. J. Norstrom

There are no affiliations available

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