Lead intoxication: environmental conflicts in South America and perspective under the conservation of wild birds





Biomarker; Deleterious effects; Avian medicine; Heavy metal; Pollution.


Lead is a non-essential toxic metal found in several chemical forms, therefore, it can cause air, land and water pollution. The main source of lead is due to anthropic action, through the use of lead-based ammunition, fishing, fuel, mining, waste incineration and industrial activity. The purpose of this review is to demonstrate current knowledge about the sources of lead contamination, the clinical signs and injuries observed in wild birds, diagnosis and treatment, impacts on biodiversity and prevention measures. In order to carry out the study, an article search was used in the scientific databases PubMed, the portal of CAPES, SciELO and Google Scholar journals, in the period from 2015 to 2020. From the studies listed, it was observed that animals are frequently found with subclinical or clinical changes, or even dead in their natural habitats. The literature states that the effects of lead in the body vary according to the dose, time of exposure and route of intoxication, therefore, the consequences on the health of wild birds are numerous. It was concluded that the replacement of lead by other components, changes in regulations and awareness of its disposal, result gains in nature conservation and improvement of biodiversity.


Alipour, H., Solgi, E., & Majnouni F. (2016). Concentrations of Heavy Metals in tissues of the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos in Kanibarazan, northwestern Iran. Podoces, 11(2), 35-42.

Arnemo, J. M., Andersen, O., Stokke, S., Thomas, V. G., Krone, O., Pain, D. J., & Mateo, R. (2016). Health and Environmental Risks from Lead-based Ammunition: science versus socio-politics. Ecohealth, 13(4), 618-622.

Artin, P. A., Hughes, K. D., Campbell, G. D., & Shutt, J. L. (2017). Metals and Organohalogen Contaminants in Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) from Ontario, 1991–2008. Archives Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology, 74(2), 305-317.

Assi, M. A., Hezmee, M. N. M., Haron, A. W., Sabri, M. Y. M., & Rajion, M. A. (2016). The detrimental effects of lead on human and animal health. Veterinary World, 9(6), 660-671.

Binkowskl, L., Meissner, W., Trzeciak, M., Izevbekhai, K., & Barker, J. (2016). Lead isotope ratio measurements as indicators for the source of lead poisoning in Mute swans (Cygnus olor) wintering in Puck Bay (northern Poland). Chemosphere, 164, 436-442.

Bjerregaard, P., Andersen, C. B. I., & Andersen, O. (2014). Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals (4a ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Burger, J., Mizrahi, D., Tsipoura, N., Jeitner, C., & Gochfeld, M. (2018). Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Cobalt, Arsenic and Selenium in the Blood of Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) from Suriname, South America: age-related differences in wintering site and comparisons with a stopover site in new jersey, USA. Toxics, 6(2), 6-27.

Ding, J., Yang, W., Wang, S., Zhang, H., Yang, Y., Bao, X., & Zhang, Y. (2020). Effects of environmental metal pollution on reproduction of a free-living resident songbird, the tree sparrow (Passer montanus). Science Of The Total Environment, 721, 137674.

Ecke, F., Singh, N. J., Arnemo, J. M., Bignert, A., Helander, B., Berglund, A. M. M., Borg, H., Bröjer, C., Holm, K., Lanzone, M., Miller, T., Nordström, A., Räikkönen, J., Rodushkin, I., Agren, E., & Hörnfeldt, B. (2017). Sublethal Lead Exposure Alters Movement Behavior in Free-Ranging Golden Eagles. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(10), 5729-5736.

Espín, S., García-Fernández, A. J., Herzke, D., Shore, R. F., van Hattum, B., Martínez-López E., Coeurdassier, M., Eulaers, I., Fritsch, C., Gómez-Ramírez, P., Jaspers, V. L. B., Krone, O., Duke, G., Helander, B., Mateo, R., Movalli, P., Sonne, C., & van den Brink, N. W. (2016). Tracking pan-continental trends in environmental contamination using sentinel raptors—what types of samples should we use? Ecotoxicology, 25(4), 777-801.

Espín, S., Sánchez-Virosta, P., Zamora-Marín, J. M., León-Ortega, M., Jiménez, P., Zumbado, M., Luzardo, O. P., Eeva, T., & García-Fernández, A. J. (2020). Toxic elements in blood of red-necked nightjars (Caprimulgus ruficollis) inhabiting differently polluted environments. Environmental Pollution, 262, 114334.

Fallon, J. A., Redig, P., Miller, T. A., Lanzone, M., & Katzner, T. (2017). Guidelines for evaluation and treatment of lead poisoning of wild raptors. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 41(2), 205-211.

Francisco, O. N., Feeney, D., Armién, A.G., Wuenschmann, A., & Redig, P. T. (2016). Correlation of brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging of spontaneously lead poisoned bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with histological lesions: a pilot study. Research In Veterinary Science, 105(1), 236-242.

Ganz, K., Jenni, L., Madry, M. M., Kraemer, T., Jenny, H., & Jenny, D. (2018). Acute and Chronic Lead Exposure in Four Avian Scavenger Species in Switzerland. Archives Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology, 75(4), 566-575.

Grúz, A., Szemerédy. G., Kormos, E., Budai, P., Majoros, S., Tompai, E., & Lehel, J. (2015). Monitoring of heavy metal burden in mute swan (Cygnus olor). Environmental Science And Pollution Research, 22(20), 15903-15909.

Helander, B., Sundbom, M., Runkel, A. A., & Bignert, A. (2019). Temporal Changes in Concentrations of Lead and Other Trace Metals in Free-Ranging Eurasian Eagle Owls Bubo bubo in Sweden. Archives Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology, 77(3), 377-389.

Herring, G., & Eagles-Smith, C. A. (2017). Characterizing Golden Eagle Risk to Lead and Anticoagulant Rodenticide Exposure: a review. Journal Of Raptor Research, 51(3), 273-292.

Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA). (2019). Instrução normativa nº 12, de 25 de março de 2019. Aprova a Estrutura Regimental do Ibama. Brasília, 29-33.

Isomursu, M., Koivusaari, J., Stjernberg, T., Hirvelä-Koski, V., & Venäläinen, E. R. (2018). Lead poisoning and other human-related factors cause significant mortality in white-tailed eagles. Ambio, 47(8), 858–868.

Kanstrup, N., Chriél, M., Dietz, R., Søndergaard, J., Balsby, T. J. S., & Sonne, C. (2019). Lead and Other Trace Elements in Danish Birds of Prey. Archives Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology, 77(3), 359-367.

Kitowski, I., Sujak, A., Wiącek, D., Strobel, W., Komosa, A., & Stobiński, M. (2020). Heavy metals in livers of raptors from Eastern Poland – the importance of diet composition. Belgian Journal Of Zoology, 146(1), 3-13.

Krone, O. (2018). Birds of Prey: Biology and Conservation in the XXI Century (1a ed). Berlim: Springer.

Krüger S. C., & Amar, A. (2018). Lead Exposure in the Critically Endangered Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) Population in Southern Africa. Journal Of Raptor Research, 52(4), 491-499.

Manning, L. K., Wünschmann, A., Armién, A. G., Willette, M., MacAulay, K., Bender, J. B., Buchweitz, J. P., & Redig P. (2018). Lead Intoxication in Free-Ranging Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Veterinary Pathology, 56(2), 289-299.

Monclús, L., Shore, R. F. & Krone, O. (2020). Lead contamination in raptors in Europe: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Science Of The Total Environment, 748, 141437.

Monzalvo-Santos, K., Alfaro-De la Torre, M. C., Chapa-Vargas, L., Castro-Larragoitia, J., & Rodríguez-Estrella, R. (2016). Arsenic and lead contamination in soil and in feathers of three resident passerine species in a semi-arid mining region of the Mexican plateau. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A, 51(10), 825-832.

Pain, D. J., Mateo, R., & Green, R. E. (2019). Effects of lead from ammunition on birds and other wildlife: A review and update. Ambio, 48(9), 935-953.

Plaża. P., Uhart, M., Caselli, A., Wiemeyer, G., & Lambertucci, S. A. (2018). A review of lead contamination in South American birds: the need for more research and policy changes. Perspectives In Ecology And Conservation, 16(4), 201-207.

Pruter, H., Franz, M., Auls, S., Czirják, G. Á., Greben, O., Greenwood, A. D., Lisitsyna O., Syrota, Y., Jilji, S., Krone, O. (2018). Chronic lead intoxication decreases intestinal helminth species richness and infection intensity in mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). Science Of The Total Environment, 644, 151-160.

Romano, M., Ferreyra, H., Ferreyroa, G., Molina, F. V., Caselli, A., Barberis, I., Beldoménico, P., & Uhart, M. (2016). Lead pollution from waterfowl hunting in wetlands and rice fields in Argentina. Science Of The Total Environment, 545, 104-113.

Seoane, R. G., Río, Z. V., Ocaña, A. C., Escribano, J. A. F., & Viñas, J. R. A. (2018). Selection of tawny owl (Strix aluco) flight feather shaft for biomonitoring As, Cd and Pb pollution. Environmental Science And Pollution Research, 25(14), 14271-14276.

Sriram, A., Roe, W., Booth, M., & Gartrell, B. (2018). Lead exposure in an urban, free-ranging parrot: investigating prevalence, effect and source attribution using stable isotope analysis. Science Of The Total Environment, 634, 109-115.

Stokke, S., Brainerd, S., & Arnemo, J. M. (2017). Metal deposition of copper and lead bullets in moose harvested in Fennoscandia. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 41(1), 98-106.

Turzańska-Pietras, K., Chachulska, J., Polechońska, L., & Borowiec, M. (2017). Does heavy metal exposure affect the condition of Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) nestlings? Environmental Science And Pollution Research, 25(8), 7758-7766.

Vizuete, J., Pérez-López, M., Míguez-Santiyán, M. P., & Hernández-Moreno, D. (2018). Mercury (Hg), Lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Selenium (Se), and Arsenic (As) in Liver, Kidney, and Feathers of Gulls: a review. Reviews Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology, 247(1), 85-146.

Yang, Y., Zhang, W., Wang, S., Zhang, H., & Zhang, Y. (2020). Response of male reproductive function to environmental heavy metal pollution in a free-living passerine bird, Passer montanus. Science Of The Total Environment, 747, 141402.



How to Cite

STARK, A. A. P. .; BONFADA, C. O. .; PAULA, L. S. de .; TELES, M. A. .; VARELA JUNIOR, A. S.; CORCINI, C. D. .; FRANÇA, R. T. . Lead intoxication: environmental conflicts in South America and perspective under the conservation of wild birds. Research, Society and Development, [S. l.], v. 10, n. 2, p. e42510212701, 2021. DOI: 10.33448/rsd-v10i2.12701. Disponível em: https://rsdjournal.org/index.php/rsd/article/view/12701. Acesso em: 24 jun. 2024.



Review Article