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9 October 2019 HAIR, WHOLE BLOOD, AND BLOOD-SOAKED CELLULOSE PAPER-BASED RISK ASSESSMENT OF MERCURY CONCENTRATIONS IN STRANDED CALIFORNIA PINNIPEDS
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Abstract

Mercury (Hg) poses a health risk to wildlife populations and has been documented at relatively high concentrations in many marine mammals, including wild-caught pinnipeds along the central California, US coast. We measured total Hg concentrations ([THg]) in hair and blood of live-stranded harbor seals (HS; Phoca vitulina), California sea lions (CSL; Zalophus californianus), and northern elephant seals (NES; Mirounga angustirostris) in California to quantify species, temporal, and spatial variability in [THg] and assess the relationships between [THg] measured by different methods (blood vs. filter paper) and in different matrices (blood vs. hair). We compared [THg] with toxicologic thresholds of concern to aid in identification of at-risk individuals or groups and better understand how the use of different methods and matrices affects assumed toxicologic risk. There was a wide range of [THg] in blood (<0.01–1.13 µg/g) and hair (0.45–81.98 µg/g), and NES had higher [THg] compared with HS and CSL. All three species had individuals with [THg] that exceeded the lower threshold for one or both matrices, but only HS pups had [THg] exceeding upper thresholds. Spatial differences in [THg] were detected, with higher concentrations in HS pups from areas surrounding San Francisco Bay, but differences were dependent on sampling year and matrix. The relationship between [THg] in blood and filter paper (r2=0.98) was strong, and differences had little influence on comparisons with toxicologic thresholds. Blood and hair [THg] were generally in agreement (r2=0.72), but large mismatches for a few seals underscore the importance of combined sampling in adverse effects studies where accurate assessment of Hg exposure is crucial. The wide range of [THg] in stranded HS pups that exceeded published thresholds of concern makes them a promising candidate for adverse effects studies, particularly because different matrices represent Hg exposure across key developmental stages.

© Wildlife Disease Association 2019
Elizabeth A. McHuron, J. Margaret Castellini, Carlos A. Rios, James Berner, Frances M. D. Gulland, Denise J. Greig, and Todd M. O'Hara "HAIR, WHOLE BLOOD, AND BLOOD-SOAKED CELLULOSE PAPER-BASED RISK ASSESSMENT OF MERCURY CONCENTRATIONS IN STRANDED CALIFORNIA PINNIPEDS," Journal of Wildlife Diseases 55(4), 823-833, (9 October 2019). https://doi.org/10.7589/2018-11-276
Received: 19 November 2018; Accepted: 13 March 2019; Published: 9 October 2019
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