The value of birds as bioindicators for monitoring the environmental inorganic elements has been globally recognized. In this context, due to its well-known ecology and population stability, the Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) could be particularly useful. Dead Northern gannets (n = 30) were collected and samples from the liver, kidney, and feathers were taken, dried, mineralized, and finally analyzed via ICP-MS. Metals and metalloids, namely As, Cd, Hg, Pb, and Zn, associated with environmental pollution and toxicity on living organisms, were evaluated. The mean highest concentrations of As, Hg, and Zn were found in the liver (0.916, 7.026, and 89.81 mg/kg dry weight, respectively). For Cd, the kidney showed the highest mean concentration (17.51 mg/kg dry weight), whereas for Pb, this value corresponded to the feathers (0.399 mg/kg dry weight). Significant differences were found between the age classes in terms of contaminant concentrations, with the adults exhibiting higher metal levels. This difference was significantly relevant for Pb and Hg, where the effect of age was observed for all the considered tissues. When considering the effect of gender, no significant differences were observed, in agreement with similar studies performed in other geographical regions. Finally, positive correlations between the concentrations of Hg and Pb in the feathers and in the liver (r = 0.688, p < 0.001 and r = 0.566, p < 0.001, respectively) were observed, as well as between the feather and kidney concentrations (r = 0.685, p < 0.001) indicating the possibility to use feathers, a non-invasive biomonitoring tissue, for better understanding Hg and Pb exposure in seabirds.
Due to the ability of birds to travel long distances in the air, the potential feeding area of each individual is much larger than that of typical terrestrial animals. This makes birds a convenient indicator of environmental lead (Pb) pollution over large areas, in particular areas of inland and coastal waters. The aim of this study was to assess the concentrations of Pb in various organs of water birds from a variety of locations. The focus was on ducks, geese and swans (Anatidae); herons and egrets (Ardeidae); terns (Sternidae); and gulls (Laridae). This article describes the level of lead in the most commonly studied tissue types: feathers, bones and the liver. The study also presents data concerning the concentration of lead in the eggs of water birds. The highest levels of lead pollution can be observed in China and Korea, related to their high level of industrialization. In Iran too, environmental lead pollution is high, likely due to the developed petrochemical industry. Lead pollution in Japan, as well as in Western European countries (Spain, France, Italy), seems to be much lower than in China, India or Iran. Nevertheless, the level of pollution in Europe is higher than satisfactory, despite the introduction of a number of bans related to, for example, the use of leaded petrol or lead-containing paints. Finally, the USA and Canada appear to be the areas with the lowest lead pollution, possibly due to their low population densities.