Brominated flame retardants and organochlorines in the European environment using great tit eggs as a biomonitoring tool

E. Van den Steen, R. Pinxten, V.L.B. Jaspers, A. Covaci, E. Barba, C. Carere, M. Cichoń, A. Dubiec, T. Eeva, P. Heeb, B. Kempenaers, J.T. Lifjeld, T. Lubjuhn, R. Mänd, B. Massa, J-A. Nilsson, A.C. Norte, M. Orell, P. Podzemny, J.J. SanzJ.C. Senar, J.J. Soler, A. Sorace, J. Török, M.E. Visser, W. Winkel, M. Eens

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

    63 Citations (Scopus)


    Large-scale studies are essential to assess the emission patterns and spatial distribution of organohalogenated pollutants (OHPs) in the environment. Bird eggs have several advantages compared to other environmental media which have previously been used to map the distribution of OHPs. In this study, large-scale geographical variation in the occurrence of OHPs, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), was investigated throughout Europe using eggs of a terrestrial residential passerine species, the great tit (Parus major). Great tit eggs from 22 sampling sites, involving urban, rural and remote areas, in 14 European countries were collected and analysed (5–8 eggs per sampling site). The environmentally most important congeners/compounds of the analysed pollutants were detectable in all sampling locations. For PCBs, PBDEs and OCPs, no clear geographical contamination pattern was found. Sum PCB levels ranged from 143 ng/g lipid weight (lw) to 3660 ng/g lw. As expected, PCB concentrations were significantly higher in the sampled urban compared to the remote locations. However, the urban locations did not show significantly higher concentrations compared to the rural locations. Sum PBDEs ranged from 4.0 ng/g lw to 136 ng/g lw. PBDEs were significantly higher in the urbanized sampling locations compared to the other locations. The significant, positive correlation between PCB and PBDE concentrations suggests similar spatial exposure and/or mechanisms of accumulation. Significantly higher levels of OCPs (sum OCPs ranging from 191 ng/g lw to 7830 ng/g lw) were detected in rural sampling locations. Contamination profiles of PCBs, PBDEs and OCPs differed also among the sampling locations, which may be due to local usage and contamination sources. The higher variance among sampling locations for the PCBs and OCPs, suggests that local contamination sources are more important for the PCBs and OCPs compared to the PBDEs. To our knowledge, this is the first study in which bird eggs were used as a monitoring tool for OHPs on such a large geographical scale.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)310-317
    JournalEnvironment International
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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