Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans in marine mammals in the Canadian North

Environ Pollut. 1990;66(1):1-19. doi: 10.1016/0269-7491(90)90195-i.


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and dibenzofurans (PCDFs) were determined in pooled samples of ringed seal (Phoca hispida) blubber, beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) blubber and polar bear (Ursus maritimus) liver and fat from several areas throughout the Canadian north and compared to mean PCB and HCB levels in the same samples. All seal samples, and all but one polar bear sample, had detectable 2,3,7,8-TCDD at concentrations ranging from 2 to 37 ng/kg, but TCDD was not found in beluga blubber (< 2 ng/kg). All seal samples and one of three beluga samples contained 2,3,7,8-TCDF at levels of 2 to 7 ng/kg, but TCDF was not found in any bear sample. TCDF must therefore be cleared rapidly by polar bears. No other PCDF congeners were found at detection limits of 4 to 8 ng/kg. OCDD concentrations in seal blubber and polar bear samples ranged from not detected (< 8 ng/kg) to 43 ng/kg. No apparent biomagnification of TCDD, OCDD or TCDF occurred from seal to bear fat, similar to previous findings for DDT, and unlike SigmaPCBs and HCB which biomagnified 6- to 17-fold. Highest concentrations of 2,3,7,8-TCDD and OCDD in seals and bears were found in the central Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and lowest were found in Hudson Bay, the reverse of PCB concentration distribution. The reason for higher levels of TCDD and OCDD in the Arctic than in the sub-Arctic is suggested to be trans-polar movement of aerosols with combustion-related origins in Eurasia. Levels of 2,3,7,8-TCDF were more evenly distributed throughout the North, and were positively correlated with PCB, but not with HCB or 2,3,7,8-TCDD levels in seals.