Is bone mineral composition disrupted by organochlorines in east Greenland polar bears (Ursus maritimus)?

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  • Christian Sonne
  • Rune Dietz
  • Erik W Born
  • Frank F Riget
  • Maja Kirkegaard
  • Lars Hyldstrup
  • Robert J Letcher
  • Derek C G Muir

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We analyzed bone mineral density (BMD) in skulls of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) (n = 139) from East Greenland sampled during 1892-2002. Our primary goal was to detect possible changes in bone mineral content (osteopenia) due to elevated exposure to organochlorine [polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolites, chlordanes (CHLs), dieldrin, hexacyclohexanes, hexachlorobenzene] and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) compounds. To ensure that the BMD value in skull represented the mineral status of the skeletal system in general, we compared BMD values in femur and three lumbar vertebrae with skull in a subsample. We detected highly significant correlations between BMD in skull and femur (r = 0.99; p < 0.001; n = 13) and skull and vertebrae (r = 0.97; p < 0.001; n = 8). BMD in skulls sampled in the supposed pre-organochlorine/PBDE period (1892-1932) was significantly higher than that in skulls sampled in the supposed pollution period (1966-2002) for subadult females, subadult males, and adult males (all, p < 0.05) but not adult females (p = 0.94). We found a negative correlation between organochlorines and skull BMD for the sum of PCBs (SigmaPCB; p < 0.04) and SigmaCHL (p < 0.03) in subadults and for dieldrin (p < 0.002) and SigmaDDT (p < 0.02) in adult males; indications for SigmaPBDE in subadults were also found (p = 0.06). In conclusion, the strong correlative relationships suggest that disruption of the bone mineral composition in East Greenland polar bears may have been caused by organochlorine exposure.
LanguageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume112
Issue number17
Pages (from-to)1711-6
Number of pages5
ISSN0091-6765
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes