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Environ Pollut. 1992;76(3):233-43.

Patterns of contamination by organochlorines and mercury in the eggs of two river passerines in Britain and Ireland with reference to individual PCB congeners.

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Catchment Research Group, School of Pure and Applied Biology, University of Wales College of Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff, UK.


Unhatched eggs were collected in 1988 and 1990 from nests of the Eurasian Dipper Cinclus cinclus and the Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea in Wales, eastern Scotland and south-western Ireland. Mercury concentrations in Dipper eggs (geometric means 0.45-0.91 ppm (microg g(-1)) dry mass) were significantly lower in eastern Scotland than in either south-western Ireland or Wales, where the incidence of detectable residues increased markedly between 1988 (2% of eggs) and 1990 (69%). By contrast, DDE (geometric means 0.63-3.54 ppm in lipid), TDE (<0.01-1.80 ppm), DDT (<0.01-0.65 ppm), total PCBs (3.99-10.47 ppm), HEOD (0.39-0.61 ppm) and HCB (0.02-0.13 ppm) were all significantly higher in Scottish eggs than others. Around 33-46% of the total PCB burden in Dipper and Grey Wagtail eggs could be accounted for by six congeners (IUPAC numbers 118, 180, 101, 153, 138 and 170). Amongst these attributable PCBs, Dipper eggs from eastern Scotland were dominated by congener 153 (2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl), whilst Welsh and Irish eggs were dominated by congener 118 (2,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl). With the latter exception, all the individual congeners were found at significantly higher concentrations in Scottish eggs than others. Grey Wagtail eggs were dominated by congeners 118 and 101 (2,2,4,5,5'-pentachlorobiphenyl). In general, these congeners are common, widespread, and dominant components in the eggs of other wild birds for which data are available. Consistent with the low to medium levels of contaminants found in Dipper eggs, there was only slight evidence of any toxic effects. These included moderate shell thinning in relation to increasing DDE, and some evidence that contaminants had contributed to egg failure.

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