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Chemosphere. 2012 Apr;87(5):490-7. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.12.040. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

The distribution of 4-nonylphenol in marine organisms of North American Pacific Coast estuaries.

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California Polytechnic State University, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, Environmental Proteomics Laboratory, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0401, USA.


One of the chemical breakdown products of nonylphenol ethoxylates, 4-nonylphenol (4-NP), accumulates in organisms and is of concern as an environmental pollutant due to its endocrine disrupting effects. We measured 4-NP levels in the seawater, sediment, and twelve organisms within the California estuary, Morro Bay, and examined biomagnification of 4-NP using stable isotope abundances (δ(15)N and δ(13)C) to quantify trophic position. 4-NP concentrations in organisms from Morro Bay included 25000±8600 ng g(-1) lw in liver of California sea lion, 14000±5600 ng g(-1) lw in liver of harbor porpoise, 138000±55000 ng g(-1) lw in liver of sea otters, 15700±3600 ng g(-1) lw in liver of seabirds, 36100±6100 ng g(-1) lw in arrow goby fish, 62800±28400 ng g(-1) lw in oysters, and 12700±1300 ng g(-1) lw in mussels. 4-NP levels generally showed a pattern of trophic dilution among organisms in Morro Bay, with exceptions of biomagnification observed between three trophic links: mussel to sea otter (BMF 10.9), oyster to sea otter (BMF 2.2), and arrow goby to staghorn sculpin (BMF 2.7). Our examination of other west coast estuaries of USA and Canada revealed that mean 4-NP concentrations in gobies and mussels from Morro Bay were significantly higher than those from a more urbanized estuary, San Francisco Bay (goby: 11100±3800 ng g(-1) lw) and from a remote estuary, Bamfield Inlet, Canada (goby: 9000±900 ng g(-1) lw, mussel: 6100±700 ng g(-1) lw). Relative to other estuaries worldwide, 4-NP levels in seawater (0.42±0.16 μg L(-1)) and sediment (53±14 ng g(-1) dw) of Morro Bay are low, but gobies and oysters have higher 4-NP levels than comparable fauna.

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