Organochlorine (OC) levels in liver and blubber of 20 bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) collected during the Eskimo subsistence harvest at Barrow (Alaska, USA) in 1992 and 1993 are presented. Liver sum DDT (lipid weight) was significantly greater in male whales than in females. Most of the organochlorines measured were at higher levels in longer (older) than in shorter (younger) males. For female bowhead whales, hexachlorobenzene and lipid levels decreased and other OC levels did not change significantly with increasing length. Most organo-chlorine contaminants have low concentrations in tissues of the bowhead whale compared to concentrations in tissues of other cetaceans, especially Odontocetes. Based on allowable daily intakes (ADI) levels established by the Canadian Northern Contaminants Program (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) “safe” levels of blubber to consume were calculated. Chlordane levels in bowhead whale blubber results in the most restrictive consumption amount (50 g blubber/day). We expect no adverse effects related to these organochlorine contaminants to occur in bowhead whales or in consumers of their tissues. However, investigation of low level chronic exposure effects and a more rigorous assessment of histopathology, biomarkers, and immune status in the bowhead whale would be required to conclude “no effect” with more certainty.
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Vol. 35 • No. 4