Skip to main content

Use of stable isotope ratios to distinguish sources of lead exposure in wild birds

Abstract

We used stable lead (Pb) isotope ratios to attempt to discriminate between several potential sources of elevated environmental Pb exposure in several wild bird species. For juvenile herring gulls (Larus argentatus) from the Canadian Great Lakes, the mean 206Pb:207Pb ratio in bone (1.137 +/- 0.007) was within the range characterizing Pb from gasoline combustion in Canada (1.13--1.16). By contrast, very few Canadian waterfowl, loons or eagles that had experienced elevated Pb exposure had 206Pb:207Pb ratios similar to that of Pb originating from Canadian gasoline combustion. Pb in soils, sediments and biota derived from leaded gasoline combustion was not the primary source of elevated Pb exposure and toxicity for most individuals of these species. The range and pattern of the 206Pb:207Pb ratios for Pb-exposed waterfowl and eagles was very similar to that for Pb shot pellets purchased or recovered from lake sediments, consistent with the contention that the ingestion of Pb shot (or Pb sinker in the case of common loons) is the main cause of elevated Pb exposure in these species. In addition, the isotope ratios for all species were higher than that characterizing Pb from Precambrian mining and smelter sources (206Pb:207Pb = 0.93--1.07), indicating that none of the birds examined in the present study had experienced elevated Pb exposure from Precambrian mining or smelting wastes. We conclude that stable Pb isotope analysis is useful for distinguishing between potential sources of Pb exposure in wildlife and that Pb shot ingestion is the cause of most of the elevated Pb exposure in waterfowl and their predators in Canada

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Blus, L.J., Henny, C.J., Hoffman, D.J. and Grove, R.A. (1991) Lead toxicosis in tundra swans near a mining and smelting complex in northern Idaho. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 21, 549–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, J.S. (1962) Ore leads and isotopes. Econ. Geol. 57, 673–720.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chow, T.J. (1970) Lead accumulation in roadside soil and grass. Nature 225, 295–6.

    Google Scholar 

  • Delves, H.T. and Campbell, M.J. (1988) Measurements of total lead concentrations and of lead isotope ratios in whole blood by use of inductively coupled plasma source mass spectrometry. J. Anal. Atomic Spectrom 3, 343–8.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elliott, J.E., Learning, W.J. and Oullette, Y. (1987) A Guide to the Canadian Wildlife Service National Registry of Toxic Chemical Residues. Ottawa: Canadian Wildlife Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elliott, J.E., Langelier, K.M., Scheuhammer, A.M., Sinclair, P.H. and Whitehead, P.E. (1992) Incidence of Lead Poisoning in Bald Eagles and Lead Shot in Waterfowl Gizzards from British Columbia 1988–91. Ottawa: Canadian Wildlife Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flegal, A.R., Nriagu, J.O., Niemeyer, S. and Coale, K.H. (1989) Isotopic tracers of lead contamination in the Great Lakes. Nature 339, 455–8.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frank, A. (1986) Lead fragments in tissues from wild birds: a cause of misleading analytical results. Sci. Total Environ. 54, 275–81.

    Google Scholar 

  • Government of Great Britain (1986) The Control of Pollution (Angler's Lead Weights). Statutory Instruments No. 1992. London: Government of Great Britain.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grinnell, G.B. (1894) Lead poisoning. Forest Stream 42(6), 117–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ketterer, M.E., Peters, M.J. and Tisdale, P.J. (1991) Verification of a correction procedure for measurement of lead isotope ratios by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. J. Anal. Atomic Spectrosc. 6, 439–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Locke, L.N. and Friend, M. (1992) Lead poisoning of avian species other than waterfowl. In Lead Poisoning in Waterfowl, (D.J. Pain, ed) pp. 19–22. Slimbridge: IWRB.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maring, H., Settle, D.M., Buat-Menard, P., Dulac, F. and Patterson, C.C. (1987) Stable lead isotope tracers of air mass trajectories in the Mediterranean region. Nature 330, 154–6.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pain, D.J. and Amiard-Triquet, C. (1993) Lead poisoning of raptors in France and elsewhere. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Safety 25, 183–192.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pattee, O.H. and Hennes, S.K. (1983) Bald eagles and waterfowl: the lead shot connection. Trans. N. Am. Wildl. Nat. Res. Conf. 48, 230–7.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pokras, M.A., Rohrbach, S., Press, C., Chafel, R., Perry, C. and Burger, J. (1992) Environmental pathology of 124 common loons from the northeastern United States. In The Loon and its Ecosystem. Status, Managment and Environmental Concerns, (L. Morse, S. Stockwell and M. Pokras, eds) pp. 20–53. Bar Harbor, Maine: North American Loon Fund.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reichel, W.L., Schmeling, S.K., Cromartie, E., Kaiser, T.E., Krynitsky, A.J., Lamont, T.G., Mulhern, B.M., Prouty, R.M., Stafford, C.J. and Swineford, D.M. (1984) Pesticide, PCB, and lead residues and necropsy data for Bald Eagles from 32 states - 1978–81. Environ. Monitor. Assess. 4, 395–403.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reif, J.S., Ameghino, E. and Aaronson, M.J. (1989) Chronic exposure of sheep to a zinc smelter in Peru. Environ. Res. 49, 40–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, R.D., Johnson, M.S. and Hutton, M. (1978) Lead contamination of small mammals from abandoned metalliferous mines. Environ. Pollut. 15, 61–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosman, K.J.R., Chisolm, W., Boutron, C.F., Candelone, J.P. and Görlach, U. (1993) Isotopic evidence for the source of lead in Greenland snow since the late 1960s. Nature 362, 333–5.

    Google Scholar 

  • Royal Society of Canada (1986) Lead in the Canadian Environment: Science and Regulation. Ottawa: The Commission on Lead in the Environment.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sanderson, G.C. and Bellrose, F.C. (1986) A review of the problem of lead poisoning in waterfowl. Illin. Nat. Hist. Surv. Spec. Publ. 4, 1–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scheuhammer, A.M. and Dickson, K. (1996) Patterns of environmental lead exposure in waterfowl in eastern Canada. Ambio 25, 14–20.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scheuhammer, A.M. and Norris, S.L. (1995) A Review of the Environmental Impacts of Lead Shotshell Ammunition and Lead Fishing Weights in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Wildlife Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmitt, N., Brown, G., Devlin, E.L., Larsen, A.A., McCausland, E.D. and Saville, J.M. (1971) Lead poisoning in horses. An environmental health hazard. Arch. Environ. Health 23, 185–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, D.R., Niemeyer, S., Estes, J.A. and Flegal, A.R. (1990) Stable lead isotopes evidence anthropogenic contamination in Alaskan sea otters. Environ. Sci. Technol. 24, 1517–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sturges, W.T. and Barrie, L.A. (1987) Lead 206/207 isotope ratios in the atmosphere of North America as tracers of US and Canadian emissions. Nature 329, 144–6.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sturges, W.T. and Barrie, L.A. (1989) The use of stable lead 206/207 isotope ratios and elemental composition to discriminate the origins of lead in aerosols at a rural site in eastern Canada. Atmos. Environ. 23, 1645–57.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ting, B.T.C. and Janghorbani, M. (1988) Optimisation of instrumental parameters for the precise measurement of isotope ratios with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. J. Anal. Atomic Spectrosc. 3, 325–36.

    Google Scholar 

  • USFWS (1994) Lead Sinker Ingestion in Avian Species. Arlington, VA: USFWS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Xu, S.X., Stuhne-Sekalec, L. and Templeton, D.M. (1993) Determination of Ni in serum and urine by ICP-MS. J. Anal. Atomic Spectrosc. 8, 445–8.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Scheuhammer, A., Templeton, D. Use of stable isotope ratios to distinguish sources of lead exposure in wild birds. Ecotoxicology 7, 37–42 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008855617453

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008855617453

  • isotope ratios
  • lead exposure
  • wild birds