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Lead toxicosis in tundra swans near a mining and smelting complex in northern Idaho

Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

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Abstract

Die-offs of waterfowl have occurred in the Coeur d`Alene River system in northern Idaho since at least the early 1900`s. We investigated causes of mortality and lead and cadmium contamination of 46 tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) from 1987 to 1989; an additional 22 swans found dead in 1990 were not examined. We necropsied 43 of the 46 birds found from 1987 to 1989; 38 of these were from the Coeur d`Alene River system, which has been contaminated with mining and smelting wastes for a century, and the other 5 were from a nearby, relatively uncontaminated area. Of the 36 livers of swans from the contaminated area that were analyzed, 32 contained lethal levels of lead (6 to 40 micrograms/g, wet weight) and all birds exhibited several symptoms of lead poisoning, notably enlarged gall bladders containing viscous, darkgreen bile. Only 13% of the lead-poisoned birds (10% when data were included from other studies of swans in the area) contained shot, compared to 95% of lead-poisoning swans in studies outside northern Idaho. Lead concentrations in blood samples from 16 apparently healthy swans (0.5 to 2.3 micrograms/g, and 4 leadpoisoned birds found moribund (1.3 to 9.6 micrograms/g) indicating that tundra swans accumulated high levels of lead from ingestion of sediment that contained up to 8,700 micrograms/g of lead and plants that contained up to 400 micrograms/g. The swans spend only a few weeks in the area staging during the spring migration. The five tundra swans from the uncontaminated area had low levels of lead and essentially no symptoms of lead poisoning.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Lead toxicosis in tundra swans near a mining and smelting complex in northern Idaho
Series title:
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Volume
21
Issue:
4
Year Published:
1991
Language:
English
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description:
549-555
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
First page:
549
Last page:
555
Number of Pages:
7