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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Oct 15;41(20):6983-9.

In situ experimental assessment of lake whitefish development following a freshwater oil spill.

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Golder Associates Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Wabamun Lake (Alberta, Canada) has been subject to ongoing contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from multiple sources for decades and in August 2005 was exposed to ca. 149 500 L of bunker C oil following a train derailment. We compared the pattern, frequency, and severity of deformity in larvae of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) incubated in situ in areas of Wabamun Lake exposed only to "background" PAH contamination and in areas additionally exposed to PAHs from the oil. All sites in the lake (including reference areas) showed incidences of deformity higher than are typically observed in laboratory studies. A small number of oil-exposed sites showed higher incidences of some teratogenic deformities and a tendency to exhibit deformities of higher severity than sites not exposed to oil. The frequency of moderate to severe deformities in 8 of 16 classes was correlated with PAH exposure. Nonmetric multivariate ordination of deformity data revealed a general pattern of increasing incidence and severity of several skeletal (lordosis, scoliosis) and craniofacial (ocular, jaw) deformities at sites with relatively high exposure to oil-derived PAHs. A simultaneous consideration of incidence, severity, and pattern of deformity enabled us to detect a consistent (overall approximately 5% above background) response to the oil despite high variability and high background deformity rates in this historically contaminated environment.

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