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PCB and organochlorine pesticide burden in eels in the lower Thames River (UK)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date01/2015
Number of pages9
Early online date28/07/14
Original languageEnglish


Thirty-five European eels (Anguilla anguilla), caught in 2007 in the river Thames upstream and downstream of both London and the tidal limit, were analysed for PCBs and organochlorine pesticides. Most chemicals were detectable in every fish, although they have been banned or severely restricted for many years. In general, the tidal eels were more contaminated than upstream ones, which was related to their higher lipid contents. The ICES7 indicator PCB concentrations ranged overall from 4.2 to 124μgkg(-1) fresh weight with averages of 33 and 56μgkg(-1) for the upstream and tidal eels; 3.5-104μgkg(-1), average 26 and 48μgkg(-1) of that were ICES6 PCBs. Total DDT was on average 16μgkg(-1) (1.7-38μgkg(-1)) upstream and 18μgkg(-1) (8.6-35μgkg(-1)) downstream with about half of that provided by pp'DDE. Lindane (γ-HCH) was found at up to 2.8μgkg(-1) (averages 0.58 and 1.1μgkg(-1) upstream and downstream) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) was on average 1.9 and 2.5μgkg(-1) in the two groups with a maximum of 6.4μgkg(-1) in each. Therefore all individuals passed the European Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) of 10μgkg(-1) for HCB. PCB contamination was fairly typical for recent UK eel data, whilst DDE and lindane concentrations were lower than most previous UK eel studies, perhaps reflecting a downward trend. Although not as highly contaminated as some eels from previous UK and European studies, the presence of so many of these chemicals, with their known health effects may represent a stress for the fish or higher predators, such as birds.