Sediment ingestion is sometimes the principal route by which waterfowl are exposed to environmental contaminants, and at severely contaminated sites waterfowl have been killed by ingesting sediment. Mute swans (Cygnus olor) were fed a diet for six weeks with a high but environmentally realistic concentration (24%) of sediment from the moderately polluted Anacostia River in the District of Columbia, to estimate the sediment?s toxicity. Control swans were fed the same diet without the sediment. Five organochlorine compounds were detected in the treated diets but none of 22 organochlorine compounds included in the analyses were detected in livers of the treated swans. The concentrations of 24 polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons measured in the treated diet were as high as 0.80 mg/kg and they were thought to have been responsible for the observed induction of hepatic microsomal monooxygenase activity in livers. A concentration of 85 mg/kg of lead in the diet was enough to decrease red blood cell ALAD activity but was not high enough to cause more serious effects of lead poisoning. The dietary concentrations of Al, Fe, V, and Ba were high compared to the concentrations of these elements known to be toxic in laboratory feeding studies, but these elements did not accumulate in the livers of the treated swans and probably were not readily available in the sediment. Although ingestion of the Anacostia River sediment caused subtle toxicological effects in swans, we concluded from pathological examinations and weight data that the treated swans remained basically healthy.
Additional publication details
Toxicity of Anacostia River, Washington, DC, USA, sediment fed to mute swans (Cygnus olor)