The project aims were to study concentrations and effects of emerging organic pollutants in nestlings of white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) from Norway and Spain. The emerging pollutants included in the study were brominated-, chlorinated- and phosphorous flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals as there was a lack of information available on the effects of those contaminants in wildlife species.
The project investigated the exposure and potential effects of both emerging organic compounds and legislated persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in wild birds in their natural environment. To investigate the effects of emerging compounds individually and in mixture (cocktail) scenarios we also performed experimental exposure studies in the lab using the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) and the chicken (Gallus gallus) as model species. All personnel received approved training to work with animals in the laboratory and field, and all experiments were ethically approved.
The results indicate that the goshawks from Trøndelag were relatively more exposed to mercury and perfluorinated chemicals then those from Troms or Murcia (Spain). In general, most contaminants were found in higher concentrations in white-tailed eagles than goshawks, most likely due to the marine diet of white-tailed eagles. Concentrations of perfluorinated chemicals were higher than the legacy POPs in both species, and the emerging flame retardants were found to be generally low. Preliminary results indicate interactions between the investigated POPs and perfluorinated chemicals and health biomarkers (endocrine and immune) in white-tailed eagles. The experimental study on chickens exposed to perfluorinated chemicals during their development in the egg found effects on heart rate and liver size in the exposed embryos. Therefore, perfluorinated chemicals seem to be of concern both in terms of exposure and effects, while the exposure and effects for emerging flame retardants were found to be of less concern in our studies.
Our project also resulted in several recommendations for future biomonitoring studies using birds of prey, including the importance to correct for both age and diet when sampling nestling birds of prey, and the advice to use blood when biomonitoring for perfluorinated chemicals, rather than feathers. More research is needed to investigate the usefulness of feathers for biomonitoring of emerging flame retardants, as contamination via the air is suggested as a potential source for phosphorous flame retardants onto the feather surface. Finally, further biomonitoring and effect studies of perfluorinated chemicals in birds are highly recommended.
This project has so far resulted in 4 completed Master thesisses, 10 published articles and 19 presentations at national and international conferences. In addition, 2 PhD thesisses and one more master thesis will be completed in 2019 as a result of the project.
The impact of the projects results for the scientific community and risk assessment is very important, because our results indicate that the most important compounds to consider may be the perfluorinated alkylated substances(PFASs). New brominated flame retardants and phosphorous flame retardants seem to be of less concern regarding internal exposure and toxicity in birds, although further research is necessary to confirm this.
In addition, recommendations for futher biomonitoring studies have been formulated (see project results report) and this may impact future research, risk assessment practices and studies of environmental agencies (including miljødirektoratet).
The proposed project will focus on the occurrence and effects of emerging pollutants, i.e. novel brominated flame retardants (NBFRs), organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs), perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), in birds of prey from Ar ctic and subarctic regions.
Very little is known about exposure and effects of NBFRs and OPFRs in wildlife species and there is a lack of information about terrestrial biota. We hypothesize that several NBFRs/OPFRs bioaccumulate and biomagnify in birds of prey and we aim to study their accumulation from the diet in both the marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Also more information on PFASs in the terrestrial environment is needed, and time trends have shown that PFASs levels increase for some compounds in the terrestrial Norwegian habitat.
The proposed research will be divided into two main themes: 1) studying the exposure to emerging contaminants in free-living Norwegian birds of prey (both marine and terrestrial species), and 2) assessing the potenti al effects of these emerging contaminants, either alone via exposure experiments using a model bird species (Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica) and/or in combination with legacy pollutants occurring in free-living birds of prey. Effects will be assessed o n endocrinological, immunological and chemical blood parameters. The large amount of data that will result from this project will be statistically analysed using pharmacokinetic models, complex linear models and multivariate techniques.