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. 2019 Oct;77(3):359-367.
doi: 10.1007/s00244-019-00646-5. Epub 2019 Jun 18.

Lead and Other Trace Elements in Danish Birds of Prey

Free PMC article

Lead and Other Trace Elements in Danish Birds of Prey

Niels Kanstrup et al. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. .
Free PMC article


Lead is a widely used and toxic heavy metal that poses a serious hazard to wildlife species and their ecosystems. Lead is used for production of hunting ammunition. Via gunshot or rifle projectiles, it spreads in ecosystems and may end up in predators and scavengers feeding on wounded or dead animals shot with lead-based ammunition. To assess to what degree Danish raptors are subject to lead contamination, we measured the content of lead in liver tissue from Danish birds of prey (n = 137). Additionally, the study included values for 54 other trace elements. In our analysis, emphasis was put on interpretation of lead levels. Levels of cadmium, mercury and selenium were also discussed, while data for the remaining elements were provided for reference purposes. Bismuth was included to assess if lead originated from bismuth gunshot used as an alternative to lead shot. Concentrations of lead, cadmium, mercury and selenium were generally below the levels in similar studies of birds of prey in other northern European countries and none exceeded known and generally accepted threshold values for adverse health effects. As for lead, this is possibly related to the phase out of lead shot for hunting since 1986. The study confirms results from other studies showing that bismuth shot contains traces of lead that is deposited with bismuth in the target animal.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Correlation between lead and bismuth levels for birds reported as shot (black dots) but not for others (grey dots). For shot birds, we found a significant correlation (Spearman correlation, Shot: rs = 0.494, n = 61, p < 0.0001), whereas the relation did not exist for other birds (Spearman correlation rs = 0.018, n = 75, p = 0.877). An extreme value of 15,581 ppm for bismuth in one Kestrel was not included

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