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Title: Raccoons (Procyon lotor) as Sentinels of Trace Element Contamination and Physiological Effects of Exposure to Coal Fly Ash

Anthropogenic pollutants disrupt global biodiversity, and terrestrial sentinels of pollution can provide a warning system for ecosystem-wide contamination. This study sought to assess whether raccoons (Procyon lotor) are sentinels of local exposure to trace element contaminants at a coal fly ash site and whether exposure resulted in health impairment or changes in the intestinal helminth communities. We compared trace element accumulation and the impact on health responses and intestinal helminth communities of raccoons inhabiting contaminated and reference sites of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (South Carolina, USA). Data on morphometry, hematology, histopathology, helminth community and abundance, and liver trace element burdens were collected from 15 raccoons captured adjacent to a coal fly ash basin and 11 raccoons from a comparable uncontaminated site nearby. Of eight trace elements analyzed, Cu, As, Se, and Pb were elevated in raccoons from the contaminated site. Raccoons from the contaminated site harbored higher helminth abundance than animals from the reference site and that abundance was positively associated with increased Cu concentrations. While we found changes in hematology associated with increased Se exposure, we did not find physiological or histological changes associated with higher levels of contaminants. Our results suggest that raccoons andmore » their intestinal helminths act as sentinels of trace elements in the environment associated with coal fly ash contamination.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [3] ; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL (United States). School of Natural Resources and Environment and Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
  2. University of Georgia, Aiken, GA (United States). Savannah River Ecology Laboratory; Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA (United States). Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
  3. Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL (United States). Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 72; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 0090-4341
Research Org:
University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., Athens, GA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Reference Site; Trace Element Concentration; Helminth Species; Intestinal Helminth; Stepwise Regression Model
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1427974