• Polybrominated diphenyl ethers;
  • Toxaphene;
  • Great blue heron;
  • Organic pollutants;
  • St. Lawrence River


The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) has been used as a bioindicator of the state of the St. Lawrence River (Québec, Canada) since 1996. At 5-year intervals, selected breeding colonies along the River and its estuary are visited to estimate reproductive success and determine levels of contamination. Brominated flame retardants are found in many ecosystems and are increasing in concentration in the Great Lakes, which is the source of much of the water for the St. Lawrence River. In 2001 and 2002, in addition to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated pesticides, the levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated bornanes (toxaphene) congeners and non-ortho-substituted PCBs were measured for the first time in pools of great blue heron eggs. The PBDE levels in great blue heron eggs (70–1,377 ng/g wet wt) were comparable to those measured in herring gull (Larus argentatus) eggs from the Great Lakes. Toxaphene was detected in great blue heron eggs at levels comparable to those of other major chlorinated pesticides. Major toxaphene congeners were octachlorobornane P44 and the nonachlorobornane P50. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:243–249. © 2009 SETAC