Liver concentrations of selected pollutant classes were determined in groups of sheep fetuses and their dams, at 55 (Experiment 1) and 110 (Experiment 2) days of gestation (term = 145 d) following exposure, throughout their breeding lives and after mating, to pasture treated with either inorganic fertiliser (control, CC) or with sewage sludge (treated, TT). In a unique study designed to separate the respective contributions of environmental sources and mobilised tissue to the available EDC burden, in additional groups of animals, pollutant burdens at 110 days gestation were assessed following exposure to the respective treatments, either throughout their breeding lives until mating, but not thereafter (TC), or only between mating and slaughter (CT) (Experiment 3). With very few exceptions, maternal and fetal liver concentrations of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and selected polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were not significantly affected by sludge exposure in any group. In some cases, maternal and fetal tissue EDC concentrations were different but the differences were not consistent, and maternal and fetal concentrations of none of the classes of chemical were significantly correlated. It was not possible to identify a single chemical, or class of chemical, that may be responsible for previously observed physiological effects of exposure to sludge-treated pastures. It is concluded that exposure of sheep to pastures fertilised with sewage sludge was not associated with increased liver concentrations of EDCs, irrespective of the stage of development at which they were measured and of maternal tissue mobilisation and EDC release during gestation. Thus, retrospective measurements of EDC tissue burdens could not be used to accurately assess earlier fetal EDC insults.
The assistance of Messrs J. MacDonald and G. Corsar of Hartwood Research Station in the management of the animals is gratefully acknowledged. This work was funded by the Wellcome Trust (grant number 080388) and the Rural Environment Research and Analysis Department of the Scottish Government. The valuable comments of Dr Kevin Sinclair on the manuscript are gratefully acknowledged.