An assessment of contaminant concentrations in toothed whale species of the NW Iberian Peninsula: Part I. Persistent organic pollutants

Paula Mendez-Fernandez*, Lynda Webster, Tiphaine Chouvelon, Paco Bustamante, Marisa Ferreira, Angel F. Gonzalez, Alfredo Lopez, Colin F. Moffat, Graham J. Pierce, Fiona L. Read, Marie Russell, Maria B. Santos, Jerome Spitz, Jose V. Vingada, Florence Caurant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Concentrations and patterns of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the blubber of the five most common toothed whales off the Northwest Iberian Peninsula (NWIP), specifically common dolphin, long-finned pilot whale, harbour porpoise, striped dolphin and bottlenose dolphin, were investigated. The study revealed that differences in PCB and PBDE concentrations among the species are highly dependent on age and sex but also on ecological factors such as trophic level, prey type and habitat. Of the five species studied, bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise showed the greatest concentrations of PCBs. Both species exceed the toxic threshold of 17 mu g g(-1) lipid weight (PCB Aroclor equivalent) for health effects on marine mammals, for 100% and 75% of the individuals tested, respectively. Overall, the PCB and PBDE levels observed in the NWIP toothed whales were of the same order of magnitude or lower than those reported by previous studies in areas of the NE Atlantic. However, they are often higher than those for toothed whales from the southern Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-205
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date13 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of volunteers from the Galician (CEMMA) and Portuguese (SPVS) stranding networks. They also thank E. Dalgarno, L. Phillips, I. Hussy and J. A. Scurfield for their help with the organochlorine analysis. We would like to thank R. Gallois and C. Trichet, for their participation in the determination of total lipid content. This work was supported through the PhD grant of PMF from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology of the Government of Portugal (SFRH/BD/36766/2007). GJP acknowledges support from the EU under the ANIMATE project (MEXC-CT-2006-042337). MBS was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Programa Nacional de Movilidad de Recursos Humanos de Investigación (PR-2010-0518) and the LOTOFPEL project (Plan Nacional de I + D + I, CTM 2010–16053). Two anonymous reviewers and the associate editor F. Riget are thanked for helpful suggestions and comments on an earlier form of this manuscript.


  • PCBs
  • PBDEs
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Patterns
  • Toothed whales
  • Northwest Iberian Peninsula
  • Bottle-nosed dolphins
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
  • Porpoises phocoena-phocoena
  • Polychlorinated-Biphenyls PCBS
  • Female Coomon Dolphins
  • Western-European Seas
  • Harbor porpoises
  • Organochlorine residues
  • Tursiops-Truncatus
  • Marine mammals


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