The concentrations of mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and selenium (Se) were determined in liver, kidney and muscle samples from 20 Baltic ringed seals (Phoca hispida botnica) (3¯32 years), and from 17 ringed seals (Phoca hispida) (0¯20 years) from Svalbard, in the Arctic. The concentrations of Hg and Se were considerably higher in the Baltic ringed seals, but the Cd concentrations lower than in the Svalbard ringed seals. There was no big geographical difference with respect to Pb concentrations. Se and Hg concentrations showed a significant positive correlation in both regions. By comparison with earlier studies on Baltic seals, the metal concentrations have remained at the same level since the 1980s. Of the metals we studied, only the level of Hg in Baltic ringed seals can be considered high (mean 53 mg/kg, range 6.5¯124 mg/kg wet wt. for liver), but probably not high enough to cause metal intoxication. No pathological changes associated with metal intoxication were observed in the seals.
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