Are organohalogen contaminants a bears (Ursus maritimus)?

Christian Sonne, Rune Dietz, PS Leifsson, EW Born, M Kirkegaard, RJ Letcher, DC Muir, FE Riget, Lars Hyldstrup


Tissues of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from East Greenland contain the highest concentrations of organohalogen contaminants (OHCs) among subpopulations of any mammalian species in the Arctic. Negative associations also have been found between OHC concentrations and bone mineral density and liver histology parameters for this subpopulation of polar bears. The present study examined the OHC concentrations and adverse effects on renal tissue for 75 polar bears collected during 1999 to 2002. Specific lesions were diffuse glomerular capillary wall thickening, mesangial glomerular deposits, tubular epithelial cell hyperplasia, hyalinization of the tubular basement membrane, tubular dilatation, atrophy and necrosis, tubular medullary hyalin casts, interstitial fibrosis, and mononuclear cell infiltration. With the exception of mononuclear cell infiltrations, all these parameters were correlated with age, whereas none was associated with the sex of the animals. In an age-controlled statistical analysis of covariance, increases in glomerular mesangial deposits and interstitial fibrosis were significantly (p < 0.05) correlated with polybrominated diphenyl ether (sigmaPBDE) concentrations in subadults. In adult males, statistically significant (p < 0.05) positive correlations were found for tubular epithelial cell hyperplasia and dieldrin concentration; diffuse glomerular capillary wall thickening and chlordane (sigmaCHL) concentrations, and tubular medullary hyalin casts and sigmaCHL, sigmaPBDE, polychlorinated biphenyl, and hexachlorocyclohexane concentrations. The lesions were consistent with those reported previously in highly OHC-contaminated Baltic seal populations and exposed laboratory animals. The renal lesions were a result of aging. However, based on the above statistical findings as well as the nature of the findings, we suggest that long-term exposure to OHCs may be a cofactor in renal lesion occurrence, although other cofactors, such as exposure to heavy metals and recurrent infections from microorganisms, cannot be ruled out. This is new and important knowledge in the assessment of health status among wildlife populations and humans relying on food resources that are contaminated with OHCs.
TidsskriftEnviron Toxicol Chem
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)1551-1557
Antal sider7
StatusUdgivet - 2006


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