John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PCB profiles in ringed seals (Pusa hispida) reveal historical contamination by a military radar station in Labrador, Canada

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Significant amounts of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered at a military radar station in Saglek Bay, Labrador (Canada) in 1996, and subsequent work found elevated PCB concentrations in local marine sediments, the benthic‐associated food web and in some ringed seals (Pusa hispida). The benthic‐associated food web clearly reflected local PCB contamination, but the high PCB concentrations found in some ringed seals remained unexplained. In this study, we assess the extent to which this local PCB source at Saglek Bay is contributing to the contamination of ringed seals in northern Labrador. Of 63 ringed seals sampled along the northern Labrador coast, five (8%) had PCB levels that were higher than recorded anywhere else in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, compared to seals exhibiting a long‐range signal, 45% and 60% of sub‐adults and adult males, respectively exhibited heavier PCB congener profiles as characterized by Principal Components Analysis, >1.6‐fold higher PCB/OCP ratios, and higher PCB concentration‐weighted average log Kow values, consistent with a local source. Despite the spatially confined nature of contaminated sediments in Saglek Bay, the influence of this PCB source is not inconsequential; PCB concentrations in locally contaminated adult males are two‐fold higher than those exposed only to long‐range PCB sources, and exceed an established threshold of 1.3 mg/kg for adverse health effects in seals. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2013 SETAC

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