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The mink (Mustela vison) is one of the most sensitive mammals to 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)-like chemicals. By literature review we established that a histological lesion of the jaw bone of mink, evidenced by squamous epithelial hyperplasia in the gingival tissue that forms nests or cords that infiltrate the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone causing osteolysis of the mandible and maxilla that could lead to squamous cell carcinoma, is the most sensitive known biomarker of effect following exposure of mink to TCDD-like chemicals. Lesions have been observed when total TCDD toxic equivalents (TEQ: dioxins, furans, co-planar polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs) in liver exceed 40 ng/kg-ww or when total PCB exceeds 1,698 ng/g-ww. This is the second report of histological evidence of this lesion in wild-caught mink, and it is the first report of the lesion being grossly detectable in naturally exposed mink. Some mink living near the south shore of Lake Ontario (exposed to the lake’s food web) but not inland mink (not exposed to the lake’s food web) accumulate more than 40 ng total TEQ/kg or 2 1,698 ng total PCB/kg in liver. Because of its sensitivity, the jaw lesion biomarker is very useful for assessing the health of wildlife populations exposed to TCDD-like chemicals.


Randall Baase collected most of the mink used for this study. The Histology Department at the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health for processed the tissue slides. This project was funded by grant C302399 from the New York State Great Lakes Protection Fund.

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Haynes, J.M., Wellman, S.T., Beckett, K.J. et al. Histological Lesions in Mink Jaws Are a Highly Sensitive Biomarker of Effect After Exposure to TCDD-Like Chemicals: Field and Literature Based Confirmations. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2009) 57: 803

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Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM) is the version accepted for publication in a journal following peer review but prior to copy editing and typesetting that can be made available under the conditions after a 12 month embargo.