In this study we used feathers to biomonitor exposure to the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) Aroclor 1268 congener mixture in clapper rails (Rallus longirostris). This species has been used as an indicator species of environmental damage for the LCP superfund site located in Brunswick, GA, USA which is contaminated with Aroclor 1268, a congener mixture that has been used in limited amounts elsewhere and therefore can be used as a contaminant marker. The Aroclor 1268 congener mixture, including congener profiles, were quantified in feathers using gas chromatography (GC). Concurrently, each sample was quantified for the total Aroclor 1268 congener mixture using an enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) and compared to the GC results to determine if ELISA was an efficient method for quantifying or qualifying PCBs in feathers. ELISA consistently quantified PCB loads over an order of magnitude lower than the GC. Based on sample replication, extraction recovery, and sample spike, it appears that GC is the more reliable method of detection and that ELISA methods may be more suitable for qualitative exposure assessment for this particular Aroclor. Moreover, since all clapper rails from the LCP site had the Aroclor 1268 congener mixture in their feathers, this experiment showed that birds were returning to the site to breed despite the adverse effects experienced by this population from the contamination revealed in previous studies. This study also supports the utility of feathers as a non-lethal mechanism by which to biomonitor PCBs in the environment.
Summers, Jay W.; Gaines, Karen F.; Garvin, N.; Stephens, Warren L. Jr.; Cumbee, James C. Jr.; and Mills, Gary L., "Feathers as Bioindicators of PCB Exposure in Clapper Rails" (2010). Faculty Research & Creative Activity. Paper 37.