Birds as bioindicators of environmental contamination; data collected on the Jay

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Carla Cerrato *
Riccardo Orusa
Maria Cesarina Abete
Serena Robetto
Renata Tarasco
(*) Corresponding Author:
Carla Cerrato | cermas@izsto.it

Abstract

This study has compared the concentrations of cadmium, chromium and lead, found in the liver and in the feathers of 175 specimens of Jay, Garrulus glandarius, in order to test the suitability of the “alternative” sample, also available in a live bird, for the evaluation of environmental contamination by heavy metals. The method used for the analysis is atomic absorption spectrometry with electrothermal atomization after tissues mineralization. The results obtained showed the absence of a clear correspondence of values in different types of samples, although the feathers have demonstrated a remarkable capacity to retain heavy metals after being subjected to freezing for months. The time and manner in which the absorption of contaminants is “captured” by feathers are not well known and influenced by multiple factors: the examination of live specimens would better define this important step. High surface concentrations of heavy metals are not necessarily a full-blown state of intoxication of the organism, but suggest the need for vigilant monitoring of local environmental conditions.

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