Alterations in the genetic material may have severe consequences for individuals and populations. Hence, genotoxic effects of environmental exposure to pollutants are of great concern. We assessed the impact of blood concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury (Hg) on DNA double strand break (DSB) frequency, in blood cells of a high-exposed Baltic, and lower exposed Arctic population of common eiders (Somateria mollissima). Furthermore, we examined whether the genotoxic response was influenced by antioxidant concentration (plasma total glutathione (tGSH) and total antioxidant capacity) and female body mass. The DNA DSB frequency did not differ between the two populations. We found significant positive relationships between Hg and DNA DSB frequency in Baltic, but not in Arctic eiders. Although both p,p'-DDE and PCB 118 had a lesser effect than Hg, they exhibited a positive association with DNA DSB frequency in Baltic eiders. Antioxidant levels were not important for the genotoxic effect, suggesting alternative mechanisms other than GSH depletion for the relationship between Hg and DNA DSBs. Hence, the Baltic population, which is considered to be endangered and is under the influence of several environmental stressors, may be more susceptible to genotoxic effects of environmental exposure to Hg than the Arctic population.
- p,p '-DDE