Otter research gives insight into lead pollution

September 04, 2006

Valuable evidence about the success of the lead petrol ban has been gathered from otters by a scientist at Cardiff University.

As well as providing important new information about the secretive otter species, post-mortems on otters killed by cars since 1992 gave an insight into the levels of lead pollution in the environment. The results have important implications for human health as lead can damage the central nervous system including the brain, as well as affecting the kidney and reducing growth, particularly in children.

Researcher Dr. Liz Chadwick in the School of Biosciences at the University said: "We measured the level of lead in rib-bones taken from over 300 otters found dead in south-west England between 1992 and 2004 and collected by wildlife veterinary pathologist Vic Simpson.

"We compared this with levels of lead found in stream sediment by the British Geological Society and airborne emissions recorded by the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory. While some variation related to geology, we found an extremely strong decline over time, reflecting declining emissions from car fuel: otter bone lead levels in 2004 were less than a quarter of those in 1992."

Dr. Chadwick stresses that the research highlights the importance of long-term monitoring and archiving of samples and shows that with help from the public, valuable use can be made of undesirable events such as wildlife road traffic accidents.

The project was in collaboration with Cornwall's Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre and was funded by the Environment Agency.

Dr. Chadwick will present her findings at the British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting at Oxford University between 5-7 September.

More information about the research can be found at www.otterproject.cardiff.ac.uk
-end-
Cardiff School of Biosciences

The Cardiff School of Biosciences addresses the major biological questions which face health and life scientists. The major research areas of the School are: biodiversity and ecology, connective tissue biology, environmental biochemistry and microbiology, mammalian genetics, molecular enzymology and entomology, and neuroscience cell biology. The School also houses the Common Cold Centre, the world's only centre dedicated to researching and testing new medicines for treatment of the symptoms of flu and the common cold. The School achieved a one hundred per cent success in the national, independent assessment of university teaching quality. The top 'excellent' grade was awarded to Pure and Applied Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, and to the first and second year pre-clinical training for doctors and dentists.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain's leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University's breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of Britain's leading research universities.

Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk

For further information contact:
Mary Leyshon
Public Relations Office
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 2087 9074
Email: LeyshonMC@cardiff.ac.uk

Cardiff University

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