Transplacental Transfer: The Beginning of Mercury Accumulation in a Fetal Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
Joanna MacNeil 1,2; Dr. Carin Wittnich 1,2; Michael Belanger 1
(1) Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, 12 Burton Avenue, Barrie, Ontario L4N 2R2, Canada
Lactation has long been considered the primary route of elimination and transfer of toxins such as heavy metals like mercury (Hg). However previous cetacean studies have revealed that the initial transfer and accumulation of heavy metals essential begins during pregnancy. In this case study this study we examined the mercury levels measured in blubber, kidney, liver and muscle tissue (µg/g wet weight) of Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) mother-fetus pair and calf from east coast of PEI National Park, Canada.
The concentrations found were:
The mobilization of Hg during pregnancy and its passage through the placental barrier into fetal tissue is an important factor that should be considered when estimating the effects of Hg and similar toxic compounds on populations the Harbour porpoise. Though in this study the concentrations of Hg are relatively low it remains unknown what impact Hg could have on a rapidly growing and developing fetus. These effects could be further exacerbated postnatally during the juvenile’s vital development and maturation when consuming contaminated maternal milk.
Presented as an oral presentation at the inaugeral EchoHealth One 2006 Conference