US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 35, No. 9, pp. 2311–2319, 2016


U.S. Government Work


Hazards of soil-borne lead (Pb) to wild birds may be more accurately quantified if the bioavailability of that Pb is known. To better understand the bioavailability of Pb to birds, the authors measured blood Pb concentrations in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) fed diets containing Pb-contaminated soils. Relative bioavailabilities were expressed by comparison with blood Pb concentrations in quail fed a Pb acetate reference diet. Diets containing soil from 5 Pb-contaminated Superfund sites had relative bioavailabilities from 33% to 63%, with a mean of approximately 50%. Treatment of 2 of the soils with phosphorus (P) significantly reduced the bioavailability of Pb. Bioaccessibility of Pb in the test soils was then measured in 6 in vitro tests and regressed on bioavailability: the relative bioavailability leaching procedure at pH 1.5, the same test conducted at pH 2.5, the Ohio State University in vitro gastrointestinal method, the urban soil bioaccessible lead test, the modified physiologically based extraction test, and the waterfowl physiologically based extraction test. All regressions had positive slopes. Based on criteria of slope and coefficient of determination, the relative bioavailability leaching procedure at pH 2.5 and Ohio State University in vitro gastrointestinal tests performed very well. Speciation by X-ray absorption spectroscopy demonstrated that, on average, most of the Pb in the sampled soils was sorbed to minerals (30%), bound to organic matter (24%), or present as Pb sulfate (18%). Additional Pb was associated with P (chloropyromorphite, hydroxypyromorphite, and tertiary Pb phosphate) and with Pb carbonates, leadhillite (a lead sulfate carbonate hydroxide), and Pb sulfide. The formation of chloropyromorphite reduced the bioavailability of Pb, and the amendment of Pb-contaminated soils with P may be a thermodynamically favored means to sequester Pb.