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Water: News

Newsletter—August 2009

Recent Advisory News

Advisories on fish few in Augusta: Mercury levels higher downriver

New fish consumption advisories in South Carolina warn that portions of the Savannah River far downstream from Augusta, Georgia have fish with the highest levels of mercury. In its annual update, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the most severe restrictions on eating fish are recommended along the portion of the river from the South Carolina Highway 119 bridge into Georgia's Effingham County downstream to U.S. Highway 17. Anglers in that area should not eat any largemouth bass, the advisory said. A similar list of advisories from Georgia's Environmental Protection Division is almost identical to South Carolina's.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle (GA); 6/24/2009.

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New study: Nearly all Western river fish OK to eat despite mercury

Researchers at the University of North Dakota (UND), University of Missouri and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded this spring that high-enough levels of selenium may render as much as 97.5% of fish in western rivers and streams safe to eat. That's because the selenium in the fish bonds with the mercury, rendering it harmless, said Nick Ralston with UND's Energy and Environmental Research Center. The research was funded by the EPA and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though the two agencies included disclaimers stating they don't automatically endorse the findings. Ralston said researchers now plan to look closer at fish in lakes, and admitted that high levels of exposure from sources such as the mines may still make some fish dangerous to eat.

Source: The Twin Falls Times-News (ID); 07/12/2009.

Michigan issues 2009 fish advisory listing

The Michigan Department of Community Health has issued an updated fish advisory titled “2009 Michigan Family Fish Consumption Guide: Important Facts to Know If You Eat Michigan Fish.” The advisory provides recommendations on how to reduce risks associated with eating fish from inland lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes. Although the state issues advisories about consumption of sport-caught Michigan fish, commercially-harvested Great Lakes fish are sold without warnings.

Source: Michigan Messenger (MI), 7/9/2009.

New Jersey fish advisories released

The New Jersey departments of Environmental Protection and Health & Senior Services recently released their fish advisory listing titled "Fish Smart, Eat Smart: A Guide to Health Advisories for Eating Fish and Crabs Caught in New Jersey Waters." The report (http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/njmainfish.htmExit EPA Disclaimer) recommends a statewide limit of no more than one meal of freshwater fish per week, or a limit of one freshwater fish meal per month for high-risk individuals (such as pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children).

Source: Dailyrecord.com (NJ), 7/11/2009.

High mercury levels found in southern California fish

Fish in many freshwater lakes and reservoirs tested in Southern California have highly elevated levels of mercury and some fish also have high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to a report issued by the State Water Resources Control Board in May. The report gives data from the first year of a two-year study. The first year of data showed mercury and PCB levels in commonly consumed sportfish (such as catfish, largemouth bass, bullhead, and carp) are likely to be very high in many waters, and anglers should be careful about the amount of these fish they consume until the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment collects more data that might lead to official advisories. The preliminary results show that it's very likely that many, if not most, of the major fishing reservoirs in the region have levels of mercury that eventually will require issuance of some health advisories.

Source: San Bernardino Sun (CA), 7/3/2009.

Farmed fish may pose risk for mad cow disease

A recent study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests farmed-raised fish could transmit a variant form of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (related to mad cow disease) if they are fed byproducts rendered from infected cows. The risk of transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease to humans who eat farmed-raised fish would appear to be low because of the species barrier from homeotherm to poikilotherm. However, the authors outline two main concerns: first, that farmed fish eating material from a BSE-infected cow may undergo pathological transformation of the fish prion and subsequently transmit the agent to people, or secondly, a farmed fish eating material from a BSE-infected cow may act as a vehicle to transmit the agent to people. The scientists urge government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed. “We have not proven that it’s possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited,” neurologist Robert P. Friedland, M.D., said.

Source: ScienceDaily.com, 6/17/2009.

Current Events

Low mercury levels found in dolphinfish

This study measured total mercury levels in dolphinfish (mahi-mahi) from Florida offshore waters and found mean concentration of 0.10 micrograms per kilogram (mg/kg)(parts per million [ppm]), quite low compared to mercury concentrations in other similar marine predator species from the southeastern United States. Mercury concentrations in dolphinfish were found to increase moderately over time as the fish grew, although the levels were not correlated with the sex or estimated age of the fish.

Adams, D. H. (2009). "Consistently low mercury concentrations in dolphinfish, Coryphaena hippurus, an oceanic pelagic predator." Environ Res 109(6): 697-701.

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Mercury and selenium levels in New Jersey flatfish

The authors tested levels of mercury and selenium in three species of flatfish (fluke, winter flounder, and windowpane flounder) from New Jersey. Total mercury levels averaged 0.18, 0.14, and 0.06 ppm in windowpane, fluke, and winter flounder, and selenium levels averaged 0.36, 0.35, and 0.25 ppm, respectively. Fifteen percent of windowpane had mercury levels above 0.3 ppm, but no individual fish had mercury levels over 0.5 ppm. Based on these mercury levels, the authors suggest that these fish pose little risk to typical New Jersey fish consumers; however, fish eaters consuming several meals per week may exceed recommended levels.

Burger, J., C. Jeitner, et al. (2009). "Factors affecting mercury and selenium levels in New Jersey flatfish: low risk to human consumers." J Toxicol Environ Health A 72(14): 853-60.

Analytical methods to detect organic chemicals of interest in fish oils

The authors developed an approach to combine the analysis of targeted and untargeted chemicals in fish oil using an automated direct sample introduction and comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry. The approach allowed simultaneous identification of known persistent organic pollutants in fish liver oils, and further permitted presumptive identifications of multiple groups of halogenated natural products (HNPs) and other organic chemicals of interest. Some of the HNPs in the fish oils were detected and identified for the first time.

Hoh, E., S. J. Lehotay, et al. (2009). "Capabilities of direct sample introduction--comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography--time-of-flight mass spectrometry to analyze organic chemicals of interest in fish oils." Environ Sci Technol 43(9): 3240-7.

Organic pollutant concentrations in killer whales from the US and Canada

Blubber biopsy samples from “Southern Resident” killer whale juveniles in the United States and Canada had higher concentrations of certain persistent organic pollutants than were found for adult killer whales. Most Southern Resident killer whales, including juveniles, exceeded the health-effects threshold for total PCBs in marine mammal blubber. Maternal transfer of contaminants to the juveniles may put juvenile whales at greater risk than adults for adverse health effects.

Krahn, M. M., M. Bradley Hanson, et al. (2009). "Effects of age, sex and reproductive status on persistent organic pollutant concentrations in "Southern Resident" killer whales." Mar Pollut Bull Jun 19. [Epub ahead of print].

Dominance of dietary intake of metals in marine elasmobranch and teleost fish

The authors modeled the accumulation of six metals (Americium, cadmium, cesium, cobalt, manganese, and zinc) from diet and from the aqueous phase in turbot and dogfish. For both species more than 60% and often more than 90% of manganese, cadmium, and zinc were derived from dietary intake. At low ingestion rates, Americium was obtained predominantly from the aqueous phase and cesium varied considerably depending on prey selection. Inter-specific differences were noted, especially in cobalt uptake.

Mathews, T. and N. S. Fisher (2009). "Dominance of dietary intake of metals in marine elasmobranch and teleost fish." Sci Total Environ Jul 4. [Epub ahead of print].

Fish, mercury, selenium and cardiovascular risk: current evidence and unanswered questions

The author reviews the relationships between fish intake, mercury and selenium exposure, and health risk in light of recent public controversy. The evidence for health effects of fish consumption in adults is reviewed, focusing on the strength and consistency of evidence and relative magnitudes of effects of omega-3 fatty acids, mercury, and selenium. Other potential health effects including those resulting from PCBs and dioxins in fish are also briefly reviewed.

Mozaffarian, D. (2009). "Fish, mercury, selenium and cardiovascular risk: current evidence and unanswered questions." Int J Environ Res Public Health 6(6): 1894-916.

How selenium can moderate the toxic effects of mercury in stream fish

The authors analyzed concentrations of selenium and mercury in 40 fish species from sites in 12 western U.S. states. Fifty-six percent of the fish samples exceeded the wildlife mercury threshold (0.1 ppm wet weight in fish tissue), and 12% exceeded the methylmercury water quality criterion for the protection of humans (0.3 ppm wet weight in fish tissue). However, 97.5% of the fish samples contained more selenium than mercury (molar ratio >1), suggesting that those fish have sufficient selenium to potentially protect them and their consumers against mercury toxicity.

Peterson, S. A., N. V. Ralston, et al. (2009). "How might selenium moderate the toxic effects of mercury in stream fish of the western U.S.?" Environ Sci Technol 43(10): 3919-25.

Meetings and Conferences

Mount Hood provides the backdrop for this view of the Portland, Oregon skyline. Source: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov {{PD}} Photo courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory

2009 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish

November 2–5, 2009, Portland, Oregon.


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American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting

August 30–September 3, 2009, Nashville, Tennessee. For more information, please visit:

http://www.fisheries.org/afs/index.html Exit EPA Disclaimer

Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation

Estuaries and Coasts in a Changing World

November 1–5, 2009, Portland, Oregon. For more information, please visit:

http://www.sgmeet.com/cerf2009/ Exit EPA Disclaimer

SETAC North America 30th Annual Meeting

Human-Environment Interactions: Understanding Change in Dynamic Systems

November 19–23, 2009, New Orleans, Louisiana. For more information, please visit:

http://neworleans.setac.org/ Exit EPA Disclaimer

Society for Risk Analysis Annual Meeting

December 6–9, 2009, Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, please visit:

http://www.sra.org/events_2009_meeting.php Exit EPA Disclaimer

Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting

March 7–11, 2010, Salt Lake City, Utah. For more information, please visit:

http://www.toxicology.org/AI/MEET/AM2010 Exit EPA Disclaimer

For More Information

Please email the newsletter (bigler.jeff@epa.gov) if you would like to announce an upcoming meeting, conference, or to submit an article.

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