Letter | Published:

Identification of chlorinated dibenzofurans in American polychlorinated biphenyls

Naturevolume 256pages305307 (1975) | Download Citation



MORTALITY of embryos has contributed to the reproductive failures of several bird species, including the sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) of southern Scotland1, the white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) of Schleswig Holstein2, and the herring gulls (Larus argentatus) of Lake Ontario3. Suspected causes include p,p′-DDE (2,2-bis-(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dichloroethylene), other chlorinated biocides and/or their derivatives, and the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), all of which are present as contaminants in the eggs1–3. PCBs are present in high concentrations in the bird populations which suffer embryonic mortality1–3. Other organochlorine compounds which may be present in food webs include the chlorinated dibenzodioxins and the chlorinated dibenzofurans (Fig. 1), which are toxic to embryos in amounts4–7 less than 1 µg. They are therefore among the most toxic substances known and are possible causes of the observed mortality.

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    Present address: Division of Planning and Research, California Water Resources Control Board, 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento, California, 95814


  1. Canadian Wildlife Service, Toxic Chemicals Section, Ottawa, Canada, K1A OH3

  2. Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, California, 94720

    •  & A. L. BURLINGAME
  3. Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California, Bodega Bay, California, 94923



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