Pinpointing potential causative agents in mixtures of persistent organic pollutants in observational field studies: a review of glaucous gull studies

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2006 Jan 8;69(1-2):97-108. doi: 10.1080/15287390500259301.


Since different organochlorine contaminants (OCs) are often highly correlated in biota, a major challenge in observational field studies is to establish whether some OCs are potentially important causative agents of adverse effects. A possible solution to this problem is to compare the strength of the effects of different OCs on a number of outcome parameters, and then examine if some compounds are more consistently reliable predictors of adverse effects. In this analysis the four most common OCs (hexachlorobenzene [HCB], oxychlordane, p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene [DDE], and polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs]) in arctic glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus) were ranked in relation to 19 different outcome parameters, for which at least 1 of the 4 OCs were significantly related. PCBs, made up close to 75% of the measured sigmaOCs, DDE 17-18%, and HCB and oxychlordane 3-4%, respectively. Despite relatively low levels of oxychlordane and HCB, these compounds tended to be more reliable predictors of adverse effects and were ranked highest for 11 and 10 of the 19 outcome parameters, respectively. PCBs and DDE were only ranked highest for seven of the outcome parameters. Oxychlordane, HCB, DDE, and PCB were "not significant" two, six, six, and eight times, respectively. Oxychlordane was significantly more likely to be related to adverse effects than DDE. Even if effects of OCs may depend on a complex interaction between different compounds, this analysis indicates that adverse effects are more likely to occur in glaucous gulls with relatively high concentrations of oxychlordane and HCB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Charadriiformes*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity*
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated