Lead poisoning and trace elements in common eiders Somateria mollissima from Finland

Tuula Hollmén, J. Christian Franson, Robert H Poppenga, Martti Hario, Mikael Kilpi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We collected carcasses of 52 common eider Somateria mollissima adults and ducklings and blood samples from 11 nesting eider hens in the Gulf of Finland near Helsinki in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Samples of liver tissue were analysed for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. Blood was analysed for lead, mercury and selenium. Most of the 21 adults examined at necropsy were emaciated with empty gizzards, and no ingested shotgun pellets or other metal were found in any of the birds. Three adult females had a combination of lesions and tissue lead residues characteristic of lead poisoning. Two of these birds had acid-fast intranuclear inclusion bodies in renal epithelial cells and high concentrations of lead (73.4 and 73.3 ppm; all liver residues reported on dry weight basis) in their livers. The third was emaciated with a liver lead concentration of 47.9 ppm. An adult male had a liver lead concentration of 81.7 ppm, which is consistent with severe clinical poisoning. Two other adults, one male and one female, had liver lead concentrations of 14.2 and 8.03 ppm, respectively. Lead concentrations in the blood of hens ranged from 0.11 to 0.63 ppm wet weight. Selenium residues of ≥60 ppm were found in the livers of five adult males. Selenium concentrations in the blood of hens ranged from 1.18 to 3.39 ppm wet weight. Arsenic concentrations of 27.5-38.5 ppm were detected in the livers of four adult females. Detectable concentrations of selenium, mercury and molybdenum were found more frequently in the livers of adult males arriving on the breeding grounds than in incubating females, while the reverse was true for arsenic, lead and chromium. Mean concentrations of selenium, copper and molybdenum were higher in the livers of arriving males than in the livers of incubating hens, but hens had greater concentrations of iron and magnesium. Concentrations of trace elements were lower in the livers of ducklings than in the livers of adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
JournalWildlife Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Common eider
  • Finland
  • Lead
  • Somateria mollissima
  • Trace elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Ecology


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