Among the waterfowl affected by white phosphorus (P4) at a military base in Alaska are tundra (Cygnus columbianus) and trumpeter (C. buccinator) swans. To estimate the toxicity of P4 to swans and compare the toxic effects to those of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), we dosed 30 juvenile mute swans (C. olor) with 0 to 5.28 mg P4 /kg body weight. The estimated LD50 was 3.65 mg/kg (95% CI: 1.40 to 4.68 mg/kg). However, many of the swans still had P4 in their gizzards after dying, as determined by 'smoking gizzards', and a lower LD50 might be calculated if all of the P4 had passed into the small intestines. We attribute the retention of P4 in swans to the presence of coarse sandlike particles of grit which were of similar size as the P4 pellets. Most swans took 1 to 4.5 days to die in contrast to the few hours normally required in mallards and death appeared to related more to liver dysfunction than to hemolysis. White phosphorus affected several plasma constituents, most notably elevated aspartate amiontransferase, blood urea nitrogen, lactate dehydrogenase, and alanine aminotransferase.
Additional Publication Details
Acute toxicity and sublethal effects of white phosphorus in mute swans, Cygnus olor
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology