Toxicological Effects of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) on Freshwater Turtles in the United States

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Prediction of vertebrate health effects originating from persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has remained a challenge for decades thus making the identification of bioindicators difficult. POPs are predominantly present in soil and sediment, where they adhere to particles due to their hydrophobic characteristics. Animals inhabiting soil and sediment can be exposed to PCBs via dermal exposure while others may obtain PCBs through contaminated trophic interaction. Freshwater turtles can serve as bioindicators due to their strong site fidelity, longevity and varied diet. Previous research observed the health effects of PCBs on turtles such as decreased bone mass, changed sexual development and decreased immune responses through studying both contaminated sites along with laboratory experimentation. Higher deformity rates in juveniles, increased mortality and slower growth have also been observed. Toxicological effects of PCBs vary between species of freshwater turtles and depend on the concertation and configuration of PCB congeners. Evaluation of ecotoxicological effects of PCBs in non-endangered turtles could provide important knowledge about the health effects of endangered turtle species thus inform the design of remediation strategies. In this review, the PCB presence in freshwater turtle habitats and the ecotoxicological effects were investigated with the aim of utilizing the health status to identify areas of focus for freshwater turtle conservation. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

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