River otters as biomonitors for organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and PBDEs in Illinois

Samantha K. Carpenter, Nohra E. Mateus-Pinilla, Kuldeep Singh, Andreas Lehner, Damian Satterthwaite-Phillips, Robert D. Bluett, Nelda A. Rivera, Jan E. Novakofski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a biomonitor for organohalogenated compounds (OHCs) associated with a wide range of deleterious health effects in wildlife and humans. We determined concentrations of twenty OHCs in livers of 23 river otters salvaged by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources from 2009 to 2011, determined sex-dependent distribution of OHCs, and compared our results to the reported concentrations of four OHCs in Illinois river otters from 1984 to 1989. Since these contaminants have been banned for over 30 years, we predicted smaller mean concentrations than those previously reported in Illinois otters. We detected eleven of twenty OHCs; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dieldrin, and 4,4'-DDE (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene) were present in the greatest mean concentrations. We report the largest mean concentration of dieldrin to date in the liver of North American river otters (mean: 174, range: 14.4-534 parts per billion wet wt [ppb]). Mean PCB concentrations were significantly higher in males (mean: 851; range: 30-3450. ppb) than females (mean: 282; range: 40-850. ppb; p=0.04). Mean concentrations of dieldrin were greater than those detected in otters from 1984 to 1989 (mean: 90; range: 30-130. ppb; p<0.05). Our results suggest OHC exposure remains a concern. Future research in Illinois should focus on evaluating OHCs exposures, particularly dieldrin, at the watershed level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Dieldrin
  • Illinois
  • Lontra canadensis
  • Organohalogenated compounds
  • PCBs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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