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Decreased metal accumulation in passerines as a result of reduced emissions



Technological advances in industrial processes have resulted in reduced atmospheric emissions from metal industries all over the globe, but the response of the environment is not well known. The authors studied metal (As, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Se) accumulation in passerine birds (pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca, and great tit, Parus major) following almost 20 years of reduced metal emissions from the largest nonferrous smelter in Finland. Close to the industry, emission reductions resulted in reduced exposure to several of the elements and, more importantly, reduced accumulation by 58 to 95% in liver tissue. Albeit showing significant tissue reductions, nestlings had elevated concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and selenium close to the industry. Single-element concentrations were below critical levels associated with subclinical effects, but the mixture of toxic elements indirectly affected health and reproduction. Our study indicates that in environments with moderate duration of industrial activity, impact, and soil pollution, metal accumulation in organisms can decrease relatively rapidly when atmospheric emissions are reduced. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:1317–1323. © 2012 SETAC