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See detailMercury analysis in hair: Comparability and quality assessment within the transnational COPHES/DEMOCOPHES project
Esteban, Marta; Schindler, Birgit K.; Jiménez-Guerrero, José A. et al

in Environmental Research (in press)

Human biomonitoring (HBM) is an effective tool for assessing actual exposure to chemicals that takes into account all routes of intake. Although hair analysis is considered to be an optimal biomarker for ... [more ▼]

Human biomonitoring (HBM) is an effective tool for assessing actual exposure to chemicals that takes into account all routes of intake. Although hair analysis is considered to be an optimal biomarker for assessing mercury exposure, the lack of harmonization as regards sampling and analytical procedures has often limited the comparison of data at national and international level. The European-funded projects COPHES and DEMOCOPHES developed and tested a harmonized European approach to Human Biomonitoring in response to the European Environment and Health Action Plan. Herein we describe the quality assurance program (QAP) for assessing mercury levels in hair samples from more than 1800 mother–child pairs recruited in 17 European countries. To ensure the comparability of the results, standard operating procedures (SOPs) for sampling and for mercury analysis were drafted and distributed to participating laboratories. Training sessions were organized for field workers and four external quality-assessment exercises (ICI/EQUAS), followed by the corresponding web conferences, were organized between March 2011 and February 2012. ICI/EQUAS used native hair samples at two mercury concentration ranges (0.20–0.71 and 0.80–1.63) per exercise. The results revealed relative standard deviations of 7.87–13.55% and 4.04–11.31% for the low and high mercury concentration ranges, respectively. A total of 16 out of 18 participating laboratories the QAP requirements and were allowed to analyze samples from the DEMOCOPHES pilot study. Web conferences after each ICI/EQUAS revealed this to be a new and effective tool for improving analytical performance and increasing capacity building. The procedure developed and tested in COPHES/DEMOCOPHES would be optimal for application on a global scale as regards implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. [less ▲]

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See detailFish consumption patterns and hair mercury levels in children and their mothers in 17 EU countries
Castano, Argelia; Cutanda, Francisco; Esteban, Marta et al

in Environmental Research (in press)

The toxicity of methylmercury (MeHg) in humans is well established and the main source of exposure is via the consumption of large marine fish and mammals. Of particular concern are the potential ... [more ▼]

The toxicity of methylmercury (MeHg) in humans is well established and the main source of exposure is via the consumption of large marine fish and mammals. Of particular concern are the potential neurodevelopmental effects of early life exposure to low-​levels of MeHg. Therefore, it is important that pregnant women, children and women of childbearing age are, as far as possible, protected from MeHg exposure. Within the European project DEMOCOPHES, we have analyzed mercury (Hg) in hair in 1799 mother-​child pairs from 17 European countries using a strictly harmonized protocol for mercury anal. Parallel, harmonized questionnaires on dietary habits provided information on consumption patterns of fish and marine products. After hierarchical cluster anal. of consumption habits of the mother-​child pairs, the DEMOCOPHES cohort can be classified into two branches of approx. similar size: one with high fish consumption (H) and another with low consumption (L)​. All countries have representatives in both branches, but Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Sweden have twice as many or more mother-​child pairs in H than in L. For Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia the situation is the opposite, with more representatives in L than H. There is a strong correlation (r=0.72) in hair mercury concn. between the mother and child in the same family, which indicates that they have a similar exposure situation. The clustering of mother-​child pairs on basis of their fish consumption revealed some interesting patterns. One is that for the same sea fish consumption, other food items of marine origin, like seafood products or shellfish contribute significantly to the mercury levels in hair. We conclude that addnl. studies are needed to assess and quantify exposure to mercury from seafood products, in particular. The cluster anal. also showed that 95​% of mothers who consume once per wk fish only, and no other marine products, have mercury levels 0.55 μg​/g. Thus, the 95th percentile of the distribution in this group is only around half the US-​EPA recommended threshold of 1 μg​/g mercury in hair. Consumption of freshwater fish played a minor role in contributing to mercury exposure in the studied cohort. The DEMOCOPHES data shows that there are significant differences in MeHg exposure across the EU and that exposure is highly correlated with consumption of fish and marine products. Fish and marine products are key components of a healthy human diet and are important both traditionally and culturally in many parts of Europe. Therefore, the communication of the potential risks of mercury exposure needs to be carefully balanced to take into account traditional and cultural values as well as the potential health benefits from fish consumption. European harmonized human biomonitoring programs provide an addnl. dimension to national HMB programs and can assist national authorities to tailor mitigation and adaptation strategies (dietary advice, risk communication, etc.) to their country's specific requirements. [less ▲]

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See detailBioaccumulation of organohalogenated compounds in sharks and rays from the southeastern USA
Weijs, Liesbeth; Briels, Nathalie; Adams, Douglas et al

in Environmental Research (2015), 137

Organohalogenated compounds are widespread in the marine environment and can be a serious threat to organisms in all levels of aquatic food webs, including elasmobranch species. Information about the ... [more ▼]

Organohalogenated compounds are widespread in the marine environment and can be a serious threat to organisms in all levels of aquatic food webs, including elasmobranch species. Information about the concentrations of POPs (persistent organic pollutants) and of MeO-PBDEs (methoxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in elasmobranchs is scarce and potential toxic effects are poorly understood. The aims of the present study were therefore to investigate the occurrence of multiple POP classes (PCBs, PBDEs, DDXs, HCB, CHLs) and of MeO-PBDEs in various elasmobranch species from different trophic levels in estuarine and marine waters of the southeastern United States. Overall, levels and patterns of PCBs, PBDEs, DDXs, HCB, CHLs and of MeO-PBDEs varied according to the species, maturity stage, gender and habitat type. The lowest levels of POPs were found in Atlantic stingrays and the highest levels were found in bull sharks. As both species are respectively near the bottom and at top of the trophic web, with juvenile bull sharks frequently feeding on Atlantic stingrays, these findings further suggest a bioaccumulation and biomagnification process with trophic position. MeO-PBDEs were not detected in Atlantic stingrays, but were found in all shark species. HCB was not found in Atlantic stingrays, bonnetheads or lemon sharks, but was detected in the majority of bull sharks examined. Comparison with previous studies suggests that Atlantic stingrays may be experiencing toxic effects of PCBs and DDXs on their immune system. However, the effect of these compounds on the health of shark species remains unclear. [less ▲]

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See detailAssessment of contaminant levels and trophic relations at a World Heritage Site by measurements in a characteristic shorebird species
Schwemmer, Philipp; Covaci, Adrian; Das, Krishna ULg et al

in Environmental Research (2015), 136

The River Elbe is responsible for influxes of contaminants into the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site. We investigated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oxychlordane (OxC), hexachlorobenzene (HCB ... [more ▼]

The River Elbe is responsible for influxes of contaminants into the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site. We investigated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oxychlordane (OxC), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), hexachlorocyclohexanes (α-, β-, γ-HCHs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolites, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in blood and feathers from Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus; n=28) at the Elbe and compared it with a non-riverine site about 90 km further north. (1) Mean levels of all contaminants in feathers and serum were significantly higher at the river (ƩPCBs: 27.6 ng/g feather, 37.0 ng/ml serum; ƩDDTs: 5.3 ng/g feather, 4.4 ng/ml serum) compared with the non-riverine site (ƩPCBs: 6.5 ng/g feather, 1.2 ng/ml serum; ƩDDTs: 1.4 ng/g feather, 0.5 ng/ml serum). Mean ƩHCH and HCB levels were <1.8 ng/g in feather and <1.8 ng/ml in serum at both sites. (2) Levels of most detectable compounds in serum and feathers were significantly related, but levels were not consistently higher in either tissue. (3) There was no significant relationship between trophic level in individual oystercatchers (expressed as δ15N) or the degree of terrestrial feeding (expressed as δ13C) and contaminant loads. (4) PBDEs were not detected in significant amounts at either site. The results of this study indicate that the outflow from one of Europe’s largest river systems is associated with significant historical contamination, reflected by the accumulation of contaminants in body tissues in a coastal benthivore predator. [less ▲]

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See detailHarbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) stranded alongthesouthern NorthSea:An assessment through metallic contamination
Mahfouz, C.; Henry, F.; Courcot, L. et al

in Environmental Research (2014), 133

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See detailMobilisation of lipophilic pollutants from blubber in northern elephant seal pups (Mirounga angustirostris) during the post-weaning fast
Louis, Caroline; Dirtu, Alin C.; Stas, Marie et al

in Environmental Research (2014), 132

Northern elephant seals (NES) (Mirounga angustirostris) from the Año Nuevo State Reserve (CA, USA) were longitudinally sampled during the post-weaning fast in order to study the mobilisation and ... [more ▼]

Northern elephant seals (NES) (Mirounga angustirostris) from the Año Nuevo State Reserve (CA, USA) were longitudinally sampled during the post-weaning fast in order to study the mobilisation and redistribution of various classes of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p′-DDE) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) between blubber and blood. Inner and outer blubber layers were analysed separately. Organohalogenated compounds were detected in all blubber samples in the decreasing order of their concentrations: p,p′-DDE>PCBs⪢HCB>PBDEs. The concentrations of all studied compounds were homogeneously distributed in the blubber layer at early fast, since the concentrations of POPs were statistically not different in the inner and outer layers. With the progression of the fast, the concentrations of PBDEs, PCBs and p,p′-DDE increased more sharply in inner blubber than in outer blubber. As a result, their levels became significantly higher in inner blubber as compared to outer blubber at late fast. The rise of pollutant concentrations in blubber might result from a less efficient mobilisation than triglycerides and/or a reuptake by adipocytes of some of the pollutants released into the circulation. The mobilisation of pollutants from blubber was higher at late fast. An increase of pollutant concentrations was observed in serum between early and late fast. Lower halogenated congeners (i.e. tetra-CBs) were present in higher proportions in serum, whereas the higher halogenated congeners (i.e. hepta-CBs) were mainly found in the inner and outer blubber layers. The transfer ratios of both PBDEs and PCBs from inner blubber to serum decreased with the number of chlorine and bromine atoms. In addition, the distribution of both types of compounds between serum and blubber was strongly influenced by their lipophilic character (log Kow values), with more lipophilic compounds being less efficiently released from blubber to serum. [less ▲]

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See detailEffects of polychlorobiphenyls, polybromodiphenylethers, organochlorine pesticides and their metabolites on vitamin A status in lactating grey seals
Vanden Berghe, M; Weijs, L; Habran, Sarah ULg et al

in Environmental Research (2013), 120(18-26),

Polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), polybromodiphenylethers (PBDEs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are considered to be endocrine ... [more ▼]

Polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), polybromodiphenylethers (PBDEs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are considered to be endocrine disruptors in laboratory and wild animals. This study investigated whether these compounds and their hydroxylated metabolites (HO-PCBs and HO-PBDEs) may affect the homeostasis of vitamin A, a dietary hormone, in the blubber and serum of twenty lactating grey seals sampled at early and late lactation on the Isle of May, Scotland. The effect of naturally produced compounds such as the methoxylated (MeO)-PBDEs was also examined. Vitamin A levels in inner blubber (37 ± 9 µg/g wet weight (ww) and 92 ± 32 µg/g ww at early and late lactation, respectively) and serum (408 ± 143 ng/ml and 390 ± 98 ng/ml at early and late lactation, respectively) appeared to be positively related to ΣPCBs, ΣPBDEs and several individual PCB and PBDE congeners in inner blubber and serum. These findings may suggest an enhanced mobilisation of hepatic retinoid stores and a redistribution in the blubber, a storage site for vitamin A in marine mammals, before the onset of lactation. We also reported that serum concentrations of ΣHO-PCBs and 4-OH-CB107 tended to increase circulating vitamin A levels. Although the direction of the relationships may sometimes differ from those reported in the literature, our results are in agreement with previous findings highlighting a disruption of vitamin A homeostasis in the blubber and bloodstream following exposure to environmental pollutants. Previous studies have shown an interesting parallelism between the mobilisation and transfer of vitamin A and those of PCBs in lactating grey seals, contrary to other lipophilic molecules such as vitamin E (Debier et al. 2004; Vanden Berghe et al. 2010). The fact that vitamin A and PCBs appeared to share common mechanisms during this particular physiological state in grey seals (lactation coupled to a total fasting) may also play a role in the different relationships observed between vitamin A and lipophilic pollutants. [less ▲]

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See detailInfluence of gender and season on reduced glutathione concentration and energy reserves of Gammarus roeseli
Gismondi, Eric ULg; Beisel, Jean-Nicolas; Cossu-Leguille, Carole

in Environmental Research (2012), 118

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See detailDeterminants of serum concentrations of 1,1 dichloro 2,2 bis (p-chlorophenyl)ethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls among French women in the CECILE study
Bachelet, D.; Truong, T.; Verner, M.-A. et al

in Environmental Research (2011), 111

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See detailPesticide exposure of pregnant women in Guadeloupe: Ability of a food frequency questionnaire to estimate blood concentration of chlordecone
Guldner, Laurence; Multigner, Luc; Héraud, Fanny et al

in Environmental Research (2010), 110(2), 146-151

Context Chlordecone, an environmentally persistent organochlorine insecticide used intensively in banana culture in the French West Indies until 1993, has permanently polluted soils and contaminated ... [more ▼]

Context Chlordecone, an environmentally persistent organochlorine insecticide used intensively in banana culture in the French West Indies until 1993, has permanently polluted soils and contaminated foodstuffs. Consumption of contaminated food is the main source of exposure nowadays. We sought to identify main contributors to blood chlordecone concentration (BCC) and to validate an exposure indicator based on food intakes.Material and methods We used a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) completed by a sample of 194 pregnant women to estimate their dietary exposure to chlordecone and compared it to blood levels. In a first approach, chlordecone daily intake was estimated as the product of daily eaten quantity of 214 foodstuffs, multiplied by their chlordecone content, and summed over all items. We then predicted individual blood chlordecone concentration with empirical weight regression models based on frequency of food consumption, and without contamination data.Results Among the 191 subjects who had BCC determination, 146 (76%) had detectable values and mean BCC was 0.86†ng/mL (range < LOD-13.2). Mean per capita dietary intake of chlordecone was estimated at 3.3†[mu]g/day (range: 0.1-22.2). Blood chlordecone levels were significantly correlated with food exposure predicted from the empirical weight models (r=0.47, p<0.0001) and, to a lesser extent, with chlordecone intake estimated from food consumption and food contamination data (r=0.20, p=0.007). Main contributors to chlordecone exposure included seafood, root vegetables, and Cucurbitaceous.Conclusion These results show that the Timoun FFQ provides valid estimates of chlordecone exposure. Estimates from empirical weight models correlated better with blood levels of chlordecone than did estimates from the dietary intake assessment. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Belgian PCB/dioxin incident: analysis of the food chain contamination and health risk evaluation.
Bernard, Alfred; Broeckaert, Fabrice; De Poorter, Geert et al

in Environmental Research (2002), 88(1), 1-18

The Belgian PCB incident occurred at the end of January 1999 when a mixture of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contaminated with dioxins was accidentally added to a stock of recycled fat used in the ... [more ▼]

The Belgian PCB incident occurred at the end of January 1999 when a mixture of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contaminated with dioxins was accidentally added to a stock of recycled fat used in the production of animal feeds. Although signs of poultry poisoning were noticed by February, 1999, the source and the extent of the contamination were discovered only in May 1999, when it appeared that more than 2500 farms could have been supplied with contaminated feeds. This resulted in a major food crisis, which rapidly extended to the whole country and could be resolved only by the implementation of a large PCB/dioxin food monitoring program. Screening for PCB contamination was based on the determination of the seven PCB markers. When PCB concentrations exceeded the tolerance levels of 0.1 (milk), 0.2 (poultry, bovine, and pig meat), or 1 (animal feed) microg/g fat, dioxins (17 PCDD/Fs congeners) were also determined. At the end of December 1999, the database contained the results of more than 55,000 PCB and 500 dioxin analyses. The study of PCB levels and profiles in contaminated feeds delivered to poultry or pig farms confirmed that the Belgian PCB incident was due to a single source of PCB oil introduced into the food chain at the end of January 1999. This PCB oil had a congeners pattern closely matched to a mixture of Aroclor 1260/1254 in the proportion 75/25. The total amount of PCBs added to recycled fats was estimated at 50 kg (sum of the seven markers) or approximately 150 kg total PCBs, which corresponds to about 100 liters of PCB oil. This PCB mixture contained about 1g TEQ dioxins (more than 90- contributed by PCDFs) and about 2g TEQ dioxin-like PCBs. The proportions of PCB 52 and 101 congeners were fairly constant in animal feeds, excluding the possibility of secondary contamination due to fat recycling from contaminated animals. The highest concentrations of PCBs and dioxins were found in poultry and especially in the reproduction animals (hens and chicks), which showed the classical manifestations of chick edema disease. The pigs were also affected but to a lesser extent and no sign of intoxication was observed. The study of PCB/dioxin patterns and of the PCB:dioxin ratios revealed major differences in the metabolism of these compounds by farm animals. Whereas the PCBs:dioxins ratio was fairly constant in all poultry products with a mean value similar to that found in contaminated feeds (50,000), in pigs this ratio was both much higher and more variable (values up to 10,000,000), reflecting a faster elimination of dioxins than PCBs in these animals. These metabolic differences also emerged from the PCB and dioxin patterns which were altered much more in pigs than in poultry. Although the most contaminated food products (chicken meat) had PCB and dioxin levels more than 100 times above maximal recommended values, it is unlikely that this incident could have caused adverse effects in the general population of Belgium. A doubling of the PCB and dioxin burden of the young adult population would require the consumption of, respectively, 10 and 20 highly contaminated meals. In view of the very limited proportion of the poultry chain effectively contaminated during the incident (around 2%), such an extreme scenario was quite improbable for the general population except perhaps for farmers consuming their own products. But even in that case, it would have meant going back to the levels in the 1980s or attaining the body burden of subjects regularly eating contaminated seafood. [less ▲]

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See detailHeavy Metals Contamination and Body Condition of Wintering Guillemots (Uria Aalge) at the Belgian Coast from 1993 to 1998
Debacker, Virginie ULg; Jauniaux, Thierry ULg; Coignoul, Freddy ULg et al

in Environmental Research (2000), A84(3), 310-317

A sample of 166 common guillemots (Uria aalge) recovered from Belgian beaches during five wintering seasons, from 1993-1994 to 1997-1998, were examined. At necropsy, postmortem examination including body ... [more ▼]

A sample of 166 common guillemots (Uria aalge) recovered from Belgian beaches during five wintering seasons, from 1993-1994 to 1997-1998, were examined. At necropsy, postmortem examination including body mass, fat reserves, presence or not of intestinal contents, eventual status of oiling, and pathological changes (cachexia, acute hemorrhagic gastroenteropathy (GEAH)) was attributed to each individual. Mild to severe cachexia, a pathology characterized by moderate to severe atrophy of the pectoral muscle as well as reduced amounts or absence of subcutaneous and/or abdominal fat, was observed for most specimens (85.8%). Heavy metal analyses (Cu, Zn, Fe, Cd, Ni, Cr, and Pb) of the tissues (typically liver, kidney, and pectoral muscle) were performed, and total lipids were determined (liver and pectoral muscle). The guillemots collected at the Belgian coast exhibited higher Cu and Zn concentrations compared to individuals collected in more preserved areas of the North Sea such as the northern colonies. A general decrease of their total body mass as well as liver, kidney, and pectoral muscle mass was associated to increasing cachexia severity. Moreover, significantly increasing heavy metal levels (Cu and Zn) in the tissues as well as depleted muscle lipid contents were observed parallel to increasing cachexia severity. On the contrary the organs' total metal burden barely correlates to this status. These observations tend to indicate a general redistribution of heavy metals within the organs as a result of prolonged starvation and protein catabolism (cachectic status). Such a redistribution could well be an additional stress to birds already experiencing stressfull conditions (starvation, oiling). [less ▲]

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