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Chemosphere. 2008 Apr;71(7):1214-24. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2007.12.028. Epub 2008 Feb 14.

Organochlorine-induced histopathology in kidney and liver tissue from Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus).

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Section for Contaminants, Effects and Marine Mammals, Department of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Frederiksborgvej 399, PO Box 358, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark. <>


The effects of persistent organic pollutants on renal and liver morphology in farmed arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) were studied under experimental conditions. Control animals received a diet containing pork (Sus scrofa) fat with low amounts of persistent organic pollutants, while the diet of the exposed animals contained whale blubber, 'naturally' contaminated with persistent organic pollutants. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and organochlorine pesticide (OCP) concentrations in the whale blubber were 488 and 395 ng/g wet weight, respectively. Animals were sacrificed and sampled when they were at their fattest (winter) as well as their lowest body weight (summer). The results show that PCB and OCP exposure causes renal (and probably also liver) lesions in arctic foxes. The prevalence of glomerular, tubular and interstitial lesions was significantly highest in the exposed group (chi-square: all p<0.05). The frequency of liver lesions (steatosis, intravascular granulocyte accumulations, interstitial cell infiltrations, lipid granulomas, portal fibrosis and bile duct hyperplasia) were also highest in the exposed group, although not significantly (chi-square: all p>0.05). The prevalence of lesions was not significantly different between lean (winter) and fat (summer) foxes for any of the lesions (chi-square: all p>0.05). We suggest that wild arctic foxes exposed to an environmental cocktail of persistent organic pollutants, such as PCBs and OCPs, in their natural diet are at risk for developing chronic kidney and liver damage. Whether such lesions may have an impact on age and health of the animals remains uncertain.

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