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Environ Monit Assess. 2008 Aug;143(1-3):247-56. Epub 2007 Oct 13.

Assessment of metals in down feathers of female common eiders and their eggs from the Aleutians: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury, and selenium.

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  • 1Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers University, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ, USA.


Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury and selenium were examined in the down feathers and eggs of female common eiders (Somateria mollissima) from Amchitka and Kiska Islands in the Aleutian Chain of Alaska to determine whether there were (1) differences between levels in feathers and eggs, (2) differences between the two islands, (3) positive correlations between metal levels in females and their eggs, and (4) whether there was more variation within or among clutches. Mean levels in eggs (dry weight) were as follows: arsenic (769 ppb, ng/g), cadmium (1.49 ppb), chromium (414 ppb), lead (306 ppb), manganese (1,470 ppb), mercury (431 ppb) and selenium (1,730 ppb). Levels of arsenic were higher in eggs, while chromium, lead, manganese, and mercury were higher in feathers; there were no differences for selenium. There were no significant interisland differences in female feather levels, except for manganese (eider feathers from Amchitka were four times higher than feathers from Kiska). Levels of manganese in eggs were also higher from Amchitka than Kiska, and eider eggs from Kiska had significantly higher levels of arsenic, but lower levels of selenium. There were no significant correlations between the levels of any metals in down feathers of females and in their eggs. The levels of mercury in eggs were below ecological benchmark levels, and were below human health risk levels. However, Aleuts can seasonally consume several meals of bird eggs a week, suggesting cause for concern for sensitive (pregnant) women.

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