The aims of this study are to estimate exposure of waterfowl to elements in contaminated sediments in the Chesapeake Bay and to consider the potential role of Mn in influencing bioavailability and exposure. Mute swans living on the Aberdeen Proving Ground were collected and samples of swan digesta were analyzed and compared to samples of feces collected from mute swans living at a nearby reference site. Sediments from the proving ground had elevated concentrations of Cu, S, Se, Zn, As, Co, Cr, Hg and Pb, but concentrations of only the first four of these elements were elevated in swan digesta. Sediments from the proving ground had an elevated mean concentration of total As, about seven times the concentration at the reference site, but the swans from that site were not ingesting more As than were reference swans. Swans at both sites were feeding on submerged aquatic vegetation and ingested about 4% sediment at the proving ground and about 5% sediment at the reference site. None of the concentrations detected in the digesta or livers of the swans was considered toxic, although the concentrations of Cu and Se were high compared to those concentrations reported in other waterfowl. A remarkably high mean concentration of Mn (6900 mg/kg, dry weight) detected in the feces of the reference swans was attributed to the deposition of manganese oxides on vegetation. The ingestion of Pb by swans at the reference site was correlated with Mn and Fe concentrations, rather than with markers of sediment ingestion. The Pb was presumably scavenged by Mn and Fe oxides from the water and deposited on the surface of vegetation. Under some environmental chemical conditions, this route of exposure for Pb is more important than sediment ingestion, which was previously thought to be the main route of exposure.
Additional publication details
Role of manganese oxides in the exposure of mute swans (Cygnus olor) to Pb and other elements in the Chesapeake Bay, USA