Legacy and emerging organic pollutants in liver and plasma of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) from waters surrounding the Faroe Islands

Katrin S. Hoydal, Robert J. Letcher, David A. D. Blair, Maria Dam, Christina Lockyer, Bjørn M. Jenssen

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Concentrations of PCBs, organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), brominated flame retardants and a suite of relevant metabolites of these POPs, in all 175 different compounds, were determined in liver and plasma of traditionally hunted pilot whales (n = 14 males and n = 13 females of different age groups) from the Faroe Islands. The main objectives of this study were to determine differences in the presence and concentrations of the compounds in the liver and plasma, how they depend on developmental stage (calves, sub adults, and adult females), and to assess maternal transfer of the compounds to suckling calves. Generally, the lipid weight (lw) concentrations of quantified POPs in the liver and plasma of pilot whales were positively correlated, and lw concentrations of most POPs did not differ between these matrices. However, concentrations of some individual POPs differed significantly (p < 0.05) between plasma and liver; CB-153 (p = 0.044), CB-174 (p = 0.027) and BDE-47 (p = 0.017) were higher in plasma than in liver, whereas p,p′-DDE (p = 0.004) and HCB (p < 0.001) were higher in liver than in plasma. POP concentrations differed between age/gender groups with lower levels in adult females than in juveniles. The relative distribution of compounds also differed between the age groups, due to the influence of the maternal transfer of the compounds. The results indicated that larger, more hydrophobic POPs were transferred to the offspring less efficiently than smaller or less lipid soluble compounds. Very low levels of both OH- and/or MeSO2-PCB and PBDE metabolites were found in all age groups, with no significant (p > 0.05) differences between the groups, strongly suggesting a very low metabolic capacity for their formation in pilot whales. The lack of difference in the metabolite concentrations between the age groups also indicates less maternal transfer of these contaminant groups compared to the precursor compounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-285
Number of pages16
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Pollution
  • Cetaceans
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Metabolites
  • Maternal transfer
  • PCBs
  • PBDEs
  • Organochlorinated pesticides


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