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After the Aznalcollar mine spill: Arsenic, zinc, selenium, lead and copper levels in the livers and bones of five waterfowl species

AuthorsTaggart, Mark A. ; Figuerola, Jordi ; Green, Andy J. ; Mateo, Rafael ; Deacon, C.; Osborn, D.; Meharg, A.A.
Heavy metals
Issue DateMar-2006
CitationEnvironmental Research 100 (2006) 349–361
AbstractIn April 1998, a holding lagoon containing pyrite ore processing waste, failed and released 5–6 million m3 of highly polluting sludge and acidic water. Over 2650 ha of the internationally important Donana Natural Park became contaminated, along with o100 ha of the more pristine Donana National Park. In order to assess the affect of the spill on waterfowl from Donana, bone and liver samples from 124 individuals have been analysed for As, Pb, Cu, Zn and Se. Five species have been studied, from the Rallidae (rails), Anatini (dabbling ducks) and Aythyini (pochards) families. Geometric mean bone concentrations 2–3 months after the spill were in the order of Zn4Cu4Pb4Se4As, while liver concentrations were in the order of Zn4Cu4Se4Pb4As. Dry weight bone concentrations ranged from n.d-1.76 mg kg—1 As, 109.4–247.6 mg kg—1 Zn, 0.06–1.27 mg kg—1 Se, n.d-134.11 mg kg—1 Pb, and 2.18–8.92 mg kg—1 Cu. Wet weight liver concentrations ranged from n.d-0.34 mg kg—1 As, 29.8–220.1 mg kg—1 Zn, 0.15–0.85 mg kg—1 Se, n.d-3.80 mg kg—1 Pb, and 7.30–742.96 mg kg—1 Cu. The most important factor related to the accumulation of these metals was commonly species; however, location and sex also had important effects on liver As levels, location and age affected Cu levels, while Zn and Pb were affected by age, sex and location. Birds from Natural Park areas were found to have significantly higher levels of bone Zn, Pb and Cu, and liver As and Cu than birds from National Park areas. Female birds had higher liver As, Zn and Pb than males; whilst adults appeared to have lower bone As and Zn but higher liver Pb than chicks/juveniles. Although metal concentrations were elevated in certain individuals, in the majority of birds studied, they did not reach levels widely considered to be toxic. However, it would appear that As and Cu liver levels (which may be indicative of short-medium term pollutant exposure) were elevated in waterbirds which died in the spill contaminated Natural Park, 2–3 months after the disaster.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2005.07.009
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