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Polybrominated diphenyl ethers PBDEs) have been detected in bird eggs worldwide, and despite increasing concentrations over the past 25 years, toxicological thresholds have yet to be established. We previously reported embryonic survival, and pipping and hatching success in chicken (Gallus gallus), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and American kestrel (Falco sparverius) embryos receiving 0.01-20 :g PBDE/g egg. Survival, pipping and hatching success were decreased in kestrels, suggesting that they are more sensitive to PBDEs than chickens and mallards. Adverse effects were detected in kestrels at levels (> 1 :g/g egg) believed to approach environmentally relevant PBDE concentrations. Polychlorinated biphenyl congener 126 (PCB 126) was used as a positive control (1000 pg/g egg) in this study, and survival endpoints in chicken and kestrel were decreased at this dose. Some PBDE and PCB congeners are structurally similar to thyroid hormones and have been demonstrated to affect thyroid homeostasis in laboratory rodents. In the present study, thyroid glands collected from day old hatchling chickens, mallards, and kestrels and were analyzed for thryoxine (T4) using a solid phase radioimmunoassay (DPC, Inc.) specifically validated for each of these species. Results indicated that thyroid gland T4 stores (total gland content and T4 /mg thyroid) in these species were relatively consistent and not significantly affected by PBDE exposure. In contrast, glandular T4 stores were significantly lower (P < 0.01) in PCB 126 treated kestrels. Decreases in circulating T4 levels in response to contaminants (e.g., PCBs, ammonium perchlorate) may lead to greater release of glandular T4 to maintain a euthyroid state, which could decrease thyroidal T4 stores. While PBDEs have been suggested to influence circulating T4 in kestrel fledglings (Fernie et al., 2005), it appears that glandular T4 was not affected in chicken, mallard or kestrel hatchlings exposed in ovo. Histopathological changes in liver, kidney and immune organs, bone length, and potential skeletal deformities are currently being examined.
Additional Publication Details
Sublethal responses of avian embryos exposed to polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants