Content of lead, cadmium and arsenic in biological tissues of the feral pigeons (Columba livia) present in an urban area previously contaminated with mining residues.
The north of Chile presents numerous cases of environmental contamination by heavy metals and others chemical elements, particularly due to the inadequate handling of its waste. In the Arica city, northern Chile, in the decade of 1980, 19000 tons of mining waste were deposited from Europe, with high contents of Pb, As and Cd. Its effects have only been evaluated in the human population, but until now it is unknown if those chemical elements were incorporated by other species that are part of the biological community of the urban radius. In this study we evaluated the presence and concentrations of Pb, As and Cd in feral pigeons (Columba livia) inhabitants of Arica, both in the urban radius and in a nearby valley (valley of Azapa). The values found are higher in relation to other birds of similar ecological characteristics. For example, regarding Pb, 1.7 μg/g were found on average in liver tissue and 10.84 μg/g in bone tissue. In relation to As, concentrations were 2.63 μg/g in liver tissue and 2.13 μg/g in bone. Finally, concentrations of Cd in liver were 11.7 μg/g and 3.43 μg/g in bones. This indicates that the common pigeons from Arica are highly contaminated by heavy metals and arsenic and could be considered an environmental bioindicator species for future environmental assessment of the city.