For many years, waterfowl have been poisoned by lead after ingesting contaminated sediment in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin, in Idaho. Results of studies on waterfowl experimentally fed this sediment were combined with results from field studies conducted in the Basin to relate sediment lead concentration to injury to waterfowl. The first step in the model estimated exposure as the relation of sediment lead concentration to blood lead concentration in mute swans (Cygnus olor), ingesting 22% sediment in a rice diet. That rate corresponded to the 90th percentile of sediment ingestion estimated from analyses of feces of tundra swans (Olor columbianus) in the Basin. Then, with additional laboratory studies on Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) fed the sediment, we developed the general relation of blood lead to injury in waterfowl. Injury was quantified by blood lead concentrations, ALAD (-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase) activity, protoporphyrin concentrations, hemoglobin concentrations, hepatic lead concentrations, and the prevalence of renal nuclear inclusion bodies. Putting the exposure and injury relations together provided a powerful tool for assessing hazards to wildlife in the Basin. The no effect concentration of sediment lead was estimated as 24 mg/kg and the lowest effect level as 530 mg/kg. By combining our exposure equation with data on blood lead concentrations measured in moribund tundra swans in the Basin, we estimated that some mortality would occur at a sediment lead concentration as low as 1800 mg/kg.
Additional publication details
Relation of waterfowl poisoning to sediment lead concentrations in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin