From carrion-eaters to plastic material plunderers: Toxicological impacts of plastic ingestion on black vultures, Coragyps atratus (Cathartiformes: Cathartidae)

J Hazard Mater. 2022 Feb 15;424(Pt D):127753. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.127753. Epub 2021 Nov 20.


Despite plastic ingestion has already been reported in several bird species, its physiological impacts have been little inspected, especially in representatives of the Cathartidae family. Thus, in this study, we aimed to identify, characterize, and evaluate the effects arising from the ingestion of plastic materials by Coragyps atratus adults, that captured in landfill areas. Herein, a total of 51 individuals were captured, the frequency of plastic intake being higher than 40%. The plastic materials consisted mainly of low-density polyethylene and film-type polystyrene, as well as presenting irregular shapes and diameters between 10 and 30 mm. Biochemically, we observed in animals that contained plastics in the stomach ("plastic" group) high production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and malondialdehyde (MDA) - especially in the intestine, muscle and brain - whose activity of catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) was not sufficient to counteract the oxidative stress. Moreover, in the liver of these same animals, we observed high production of nitrite and nitrate, suggesting a hepatic nitrosative stress. Plus, we observed a cholinesterase effect in animals from the "plastic" group, marked by increased activity of butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) (in the brain) and muscle and cerebral acetylcholinesterase (AChE). On the other hand, the biochemical changes perceived were not significantly correlated with the identified plastic material concentrations (2.808 ± 0.598 items/g of stomach content and 0.276 ± 0.070 items/g of stomach - fresh weight), body condition of the animals, size, and shape of the identified plastic materials. Hence, our study sheds the light on the toxicity of plastics deposited in landfills and their ingestion by C. atratus, which reinforces the hypothesis that these materials are harming the health of these birds and, consequently, the dynamics of their populations.

Keywords: Biochemistry; Biometry; Birds; Landfills; Plastic pollution; Synthetic polymer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Eating
  • Hydrogen Peroxide*
  • Plastics* / toxicity


  • Plastics
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Butyrylcholinesterase