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Sci Total Environ. 2009 Feb 1;407(4):1447-51. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.10.030. Epub 2008 Nov 25.

Concentrations in bird feathers reflect regional contamination with organic pollutants.

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Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Campus Drie Eiken, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium.


Feathers have recently been shown to be potentially useful non-destructive biomonitoring tools for organic pollutants. However, the suitability of feathers to monitor regional variations in contamination has not been investigated until now. Here concentrations of organic pollutants were compared in feathers of common magpies (Pica pica) between urban and rural areas in Flanders, Belgium. The results showed that concentrations of p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) were significantly higher in the rural areas (rural: 12-140 ng/g feather, urban: 1.1-7.2 ng/g feather), while polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were significantly more available in an urban environment (sum PCBs--rural: 2.9-22 ng/g feather, urban: 41-240 ng/g feather). This pattern agrees with previous studies using other tissues than feathers as a biomonitoring tool. In addition, differences in PCBs and PBDEs profiles were found with lower halogenated congeners being more prominent in the urban areas in comparison to the rural areas. In summary, feathers seem to reflect regional variations in contamination, which strengthens their usefulness as a non-destructive biomonitor for organic pollutants.

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