Persistent organic pollutants in the blood of free-ranging sea otters (Enhydra Lutris SSP.) in Alaska and California

David A. Jessup, Christine K. Johnson, James Estes, Daphne Carlson-Bremer, Walter M. Jarman, Stacey Reese, Erin Dodd, M. Tim Tinker, Michael H. Ziccardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


As part of tagging and ecologíe research efforts in 1997 and 1998, apparently healthy sea otters of four age-sex classes in six locations in Alaska and three in California were sampled for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other chemicals of ecologie or environmental concern (COECs). Published techniques for the detection of POPs (specifically ∑polyebforinated biphenyk [PCBs], EDDTs, ∑hexachloroeyclohexanes [HCHs], ∑polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs], ∑chlordanes [CHLs], hexachlorobenzene [HCB], dieldrin, and mirex) in the tissue of dead otters were modified for use with serum from live sea otters. Toxic equivalencies (TEQs) were calculated for POPs with proven bioactivity. Strong location effects were seen for most POPs and COECs; sea otters in California generally showed higher mean concentrations than those in Alaska. Differences in contaminant concentrations were detected among age and sex classes, with high levels frequently observed in subadults. Very high levels of ∑DDT were detected in male sea otters in Elkhorn Slough, California, where strong freshwater outflow from agricultural areas occurs seasonally. All contaminants except mirex differed among Alaskan locations; only ∑DDT, HCB, and chlorpyrifos differed within California. High levels of ∑PCB (particularly larger, more persistent congeners) were detected at two locations in Alaska where associations between elevated PCBs and military activity have been established, While higher PCB levels were found at all three locations in California where no point source of PCBs has been identified. Although POP and COEC concentrations in blood may be less likely to reflect total body burden, concentrations in blood of healthy animals may be more biologically relevant and less influenced by state of nutrition or perimortem factors than other tissues routinely sampled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1214-1233
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Wildlife Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Blood
  • DDT
  • Enhydra lutris
  • PCB
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Sea otter
  • TEQ
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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