Telemetry-based field studies for assessment of acute and short-term risk to birds from spray applications of chlorpyrifos



In a program of avian field studies, radiotelemetry was combined with observations, carcass searches, residue analysis, and determination of brain acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity to assess the acute and short-term risk posed by chlorpyrifos to birds. Studies were conducted in field crops (brassicas, Poland) and orchards (pome, Italy; citrus, Spain). In total, 25 individual applications of chlorpyrifos were studied on 13 sites. Before each application, birds were fitted with radio transmitters (with minimum stress to birds). Radiotagged birds were monitored and the avifauna observed before, during and for 7 d following each application. A total of 201 birds representing 19 species were radiotagged. In 80% of individual telemetric monitoring periods, birds remained at the study sites. No radiotagged birds showed any sign of intoxication. These included individuals who spent a major proportion of time within treated areas (some individuals located within treated area on >90% of occasions). A total of 7,238 bird sightings were recorded during constant observation during and immediately after application. An additional 4,017 sightings were recorded in 104 individual surveys during 7 d after each application. Two untagged birds (out of 11,255 bird sightings) exhibited atypical behavior for <1 min and 2 to 3 min, respectively, before flying away. This observation (for 0.02% of bird sightings) may or may not have been treatment related. Ten carcasses were recovered (none radiotagged). Residue analysis and brain AChE activity indicated that none was likely to have died from chlorpyrifos exposure. Radiotracking, supported by more traditional assessment methods, was effective for assessing impacts in the field. This extensive field program supports a conclusion that spray applications of chlorpyrifos present a low risk to birds. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010; 29:1795–1803. © 2010 SETAC