Maternal transfer of polychlorinated biphenyls in Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus), Puget Sound, Washington

Science of the Total Environment
By:  and 



We measured polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in multiple age and size classes of Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus), including eggs, young-of-the year, and adults to evaluate maternal transfer as a pathway for contaminant uptake and to add to the limited information on the occurrence of PCBs in sand lance in Puget Sound. Sampling was replicated at an urban embayment (Eagle Harbor) and a state park along an open shoreline (Clayton Beach), during spring and fall. Lipid-normalized concentrations of PCBs in sand lance at Eagle Harbor were 5–11 times higher than PCB concentrations in comparable samples at Clayton Beach. This was true for every life stage and size class of sand lance, including eggs removed from females. The same trend was observed in environmental samples. In Eagle Harbor, PCB concentrations in unfiltered water (0.19 ng/L), sieved (<63 μm) nearshore bed sediments (0.78 ng/g dw) and suspended particulate matter (1.69 ng/g dw) were 2–3 times higher than equivalent samples from near Clayton Beach. Sand lance collected in the fall (buried in sediment during presumed winter dormancy) had lower lipid content and up to four times higher PCB concentrations than comparably sized fish collected in the spring (by beach seine). Lipid content was 5–8% in spring fish and was reduced in fall fish (1–3%). Male sand lance had higher PCB concentrations than comparable females. All egg samples contained PCBs, and the lipid normalized egg/female concentration ratios were close to 1 (0.87–0.96), confirming that maternal transfer of PCBs occurred, resulting in sand lance eggs and early life stages being contaminated with PCBs even before they are exposed to exogenous sources. These life stages are prey for an even wider range of species than consume adult sand lance, creating additional exposure pathways for biota and increasing the challenges for mitigation of PCBs in the food web.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Maternal transfer of polychlorinated biphenyls in Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus), Puget Sound, Washington
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142819
Volume 764
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description 142819, 12 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Puget Sound
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details