Understanding PFAAs exposure in a generalist seabird species breeding in the vicinity of a fluorochemical plant: influence of maternal transfer and diet

By Lopez-Antia, Ana, Marwa M. Kavelaars, Wendt Müller, Lieven Bervoets, and Marcel Eens
Env. Poll.
December 29, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2020.116355

Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are a focus of scientific and regulatory attention nowadays. However, PFAAs dynamics in the environment and the factors that determine wildlife exposure are still not well understood. In this study we examined PFAAs exposure in chicks of a generalist seabird species, the lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus), breeding 49 km away of a PFAAs hotspot (a fluorochemical plant in Antwerp, Belgium). In order to study the pathways of PFAAs exposure, we measured how chicks’ PFAAs burden varied with age, sex, and body condition. In addition, we related PFAA concentrations to chicks’ diet using stable isotope signatures. For this purpose, we studied plasma PFAA concentrations in 1-week and 4-week-old gull chicks. Only 4 (PFOS, PFOA, PFDA and PFNA) out of the 13 target PFAA compounds were detected. Measured concentrations of PFOS and PFOA were generally high compared to other seabird species but were highly variable between individuals. Furthermore, our results suggest that maternal transfer plays a significant role in determining chicks’ PFAAs burden, and that there are variable sources of exposure for PFOS and PFOA during post-hatching development. The association between PFOS and specific stable isotopes (i.e. δ15N and δ13C) suggests a higher exposure to PFOS of birds with a predominantly marine diet. We also found that males’ condition was positively associated with PFOS plasmatic concentration, probably due to the indirect effect of being fed a high quality (marine) diet which appears PFOS rich. Yet, exact exposure source(s) for PFOA remain(s) unclear. Given that PFOS concentrations measured in some chicks surpassed the toxicity reference value calculated for top avian predators, continued monitoring of exposure and health of this gull population, and other wildlife populations inhabiting the area, is highly recommended.


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