Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UGA collaboration discovers toxic chemical in birds outside of Superfund site

19.08.2015

Researchers at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory have found that a contaminated mixture called Aroclor 1268 has spread beyond a former chemical plant, now a Superfund site, near Brunswick.

SREL scientists and colleagues from UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine published their findings recently in the journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts.


A least tern chick moves away from an unhatched sibling egg on Andrews Island, Georgia.

Credit: Angela H. Lindell/Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Study co-author Gary Mills, a biogeochemist at SREL and adjunct associate professor in the department of geology, used advanced analytical tools to detect the individual chemical components of the contaminant in egg and tissue samples of least terns, a short-range migratory seabird. The samples were taken over a two-year period from six nesting populations at various sites along the Georgia coast.

This is the first study to investigate the presence of Aroclor 1268 in fish-eating birds, said the study's senior investigator Sonia M. Hernandez, an associate professor in the Warnell School and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Aroclor 1268 is composed of a suite of toxic chemical compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The chemical was used to produce insulation materials at the Linden Chemical Plant at the Turtle Estuary near Brunswick until 1994.

"Because its only use in the Southeast was at the now-closed Linden Chemical Plant, we know this is the original source of the contaminant," Mills said.

In 1996, the National Environmental Protection Agency placed the 550-acre site on the National Priorities List after finding PCBs, mercury and other contaminants. The area was later designated a Superfund site by the federal government--allowing for intensive cleanup.

Previous studies for Aroclor 1268 were all conducted at or very near the Superfund site.

"This current study is the most extensive, done across the range of coastal Georgia, and it shows the most extensive dispersion of the contaminant from the LCP site of any study done to date," Mills said.

The study sites ranged from 68 miles north of the Linden Chemical Plant to Savannah to 43 miles south near Kingsland and Cumberland Island.

Tissue samples taken from birds in these areas contained enough Aroclor 1268 to cause a number of adverse effects, including lower egg production, physical and physiological abnormalities in offspring and immune system disorders.

The findings indicate that the least tern ingests the contaminant when it forages on fish. Hernandez said because shore birds are at the top of the food chain, they are important indicators of the health of coastal environments.

Mills agrees, and said it is clear Aroclor 1268 has spread beyond the Superfund site via the food web because it is the most likely explanation for its presence in the species at the various sites. Because it is hydrophobic, or non-soluble in water, the contaminant naturally bonds to sediments.

"But sediment transport from tidal flow and coastal currents at these distances would significantly dilute the contaminant," Mills said.

Supporting the findings are previous studies that document the presence of the chemical in reptiles, plants, fish, invertebrates and marine mammals.

Armed with this new information that Aroclor 1268 is spread through the food web beyond the site, researchers should be concerned about the potential transmission to predator and scavenger species and the population risk to the least tern, Hernandez said.

She also points to the lingering duration of its effects.

"Finding Aroclor 1268 in these bird tissues such a long time after its production ceased is evidence of the persistence of the contaminant," she said.

The findings should also be an alert to researchers conducting studies at Cumberland Island and the surrounding area--reference sites for ecological studies, the researchers said.

###

Additional study co-authors include Gabrielle L. Robinson, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Cape Cod Natural Seashore; Angela Lindell, SREL; and Sarah Schweitzer, North Carolina Wildlife Commission.

The project was funded by the Morris Animal Foundation and supported by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The study is available at http://pubs.rsc.org.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/en/content/articlehtml/2015/em/c5em00183h. A map of the site, included with the study, is available at http://pubs.rsc.org/services/images/RSCpubs.ePlatform.Service.FreeContent.ImageService.svc/ImageService/Articleimage/2015/EM/c5em00183h/c5em00183h-f1_hi-res.gif.

Media Contact

Vicky L. Sutton-Jackson
vsuttonj@srel.uga.edu
803-725-2752

 @universityofga

http://www.uga.edu 

Vicky L. Sutton-Jackson | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Medicine Veterinary Medicine contaminant species toxic chemical

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>