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Water: News

Newsletter—June 2009

Recent Advisory News

Wisconsin lakes get warnings on safe fish eating

Twenty-five new mercury warning signs (in Spanish, Hmong, and English) were recently installed at popular lake fishing spots near Madison, WI. All lakes in Wisconsin are under fish consumption advisories for mercury. Those advisories recommend limiting the number of large fish ingested in a week with stricter limits placed on pregnant women and children. The state Division of Public Health plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the signs using a team of volunteers, including UW-Madison students, who will visit the fishing spots perhaps as often as once a week throughout the fishing season to survey anglers about the signs and their effectiveness.

Source: The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI); 05/02/2009

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New fish advisories for lakes in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued mercury advisories for two kinds of fish in Roosevelt Lake and Lake Pleasant. The advisory covers largemouth bass in both lakes, along with channel catfish in Roosevelt. Children and pregnant or nursing women are at higher risk and are advised not to eat any of these types of fish from the lakes. Older children and adults are advised to limit intake to about one 8-ounce meal per month for women and children, and two such meals per month for men. Other fish in the lakes are not affected.

Source: The Arizona Republic (AZ), 4/25/2009.

Yakima River fish advisory lifted

The Washington Department of Health has rescinded DDT advisories, in place since 1993, for certain fish from the Yakima River. The department says new data show that DDT levels have declined, and the consumption advisories are no longer necessary. The department says PCB levels in common carp from the lower section of the river still call for a limit of one meal per week.

Source: The Seattle Times (WA), 4/30/2009.


Current Events

Risk communication and the restoration of fishing services in the Southern California Bight

Fish consumption advisories for both DDT and PCBs exist in southern California’s marine areas, where in the past large-scale surveys of subsistence anglers have been implemented. The intent of these surveys was to develop restoration programs which would, over time, improve fishing services. In this study researches used a random-parameter fishing site choice model to demonstrate how simple and inexpensive programs such as better signage to warn of fish advisories and transportation to clean sites can improve fishing services more quickly.

Breffle, W. S. and K. K. Maroney (2009). "The restoration of fishing services and the conveyance of risk information in the Southern California Bight." Marine Policy 33(4): 561-570.

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Mercury bioavailability and bioaccumulation in estuarine food webs in the Gulf of Maine

A mercury contamination gradient was investigated for the potential to biotransfer mercury to the estuarine food web. The study found that concentrations of methylmercury were highest in pelagic-feeding fauna, indicating the importance of pelagic pathways for biotransfer of mercury. Also, the amounts of total mercury as methylmercury were found to increase with trophic level. Based on the results of the study both biogeochemical and ecological factors are important in the trophic transfer of methylmercury in estuarine food webs.

Chen, C. Y., M. Dionne, et al. (2009). "Mercury bioavailability and bioaccumulation in estuarine food webs in the Gulf of Maine." Environ Sci Technol 43(6): 1804-10.

Risk of methylmercury exposure from marine fish in the United States

In this article researchers studied potential exposure of methylmercury (MeHg) risk to human health from US domestic commercial ocean fish consumption using a market-oriented approach. This study found that consumers do exhibit awareness of potential MeHg risk in fish. They tend to buy and consume less of fish species that are potentially high in MeHg contamination.

Chen, D. Y. and V. J. Williams (2009). "Marine fish food in the United States and methylmercury risk." Int J Environ Health Res 19(2): 109-24.

Selenium as a moderator of mercury toxicity in the Western United States

The authors analyzed whole body selenium (Se) and and mercury (Hg) concentrations in 468 fish representing 40 species from 137 sites across 12 western U.S. states. Fifty-six percent of the total fish sample exceeded the wildlife Hg threshold (0.1 µg Hg g–1 wet wt.), while 12% exceeded the methylmercury water quality criterion (0.3 µg Hg g–1 wet wt.). However, 97.5% of the total fish sample contained more Se than Hg, which may potentially protect the fish and their consumers against Hg toxicity. The authors suggest that Se in fish tissue (Se:Hg molar ratio) must be considered when assessing the potential toxic effects of Hg.

Spencer A Peterson, Nicholas V.C. Ralston, David V Peck, John Van Sickle, J. David Robertson, Vickie L. Spate, and J. Steven Morris (2009). How Might Selenium Moderate the Toxic Effects of Mercury in Stream Fish of the Western U.S.? Environ. Sci. Technol., 2009, 43 (10), pp 3919–3925

Arsenic exposure within the U.S. Korean community based on diet and arsenic levels

This study investigated the arsenic levels found in members of the Korean community in Washington State. This group was chosen for the study because they consume foods that are known to contain arsenic such as shellfish, rice, finfish, and seaweed. Results showed that a portion of this community may have dietary inorganic arsenic exposure resulting in urine levels exceeding 10 microg/L. Although their exposure is not as high as in populations exposed to high levels of arsenic from drinking water, their exposure may be among the highest in the United States.

Cleland, B., A. Tsuchiya, et al. (2009). "Arsenic exposure within the Korean community (United States) based on dietary behavior and arsenic levels in hair, urine, air, and water." Environ Health Perspect 117(4): 632-8.

Does a cold-water source attract trout to increased metal exposure?

Prickly Pear Creek (MT, USA) contains heavy metal contamination due to years of hard-rock mining. Levels of dissolved zinc and cadmium exceed US EPA water quality criteria. In this study researchers looked at cold-water trout to find out if their attraction to colder water increased their metal exposure. Fish densities were greatest at sites where water temperatures were relatively cool (16 degrees C) but cadmium, zinc, and lead levels were high. The study found that the trout, who will normally avoid areas with heavy metal contamination, will live in contaminated water if the temperature is cooler than surrounding areas.

Harper, D. D., A. M. Farag, et al. (2009). "Trout density and health in a stream with variable water temperatures and trace element concentrations: does a cold-water source attract trout to increased metal exposure?" Environ Toxicol Chem 28(4): 800-8.

Historic mercury levels measured in preserved museum fish

The researchers used preserved museum fish specimens to examine historical changes and predict current mercury concentrations in fish from two rivers in southeastern Oklahoma. A commonly used preservation technique (formalin-isopropanol) was examined to determine its effect on mercury concentrations in fish tissue. The study found that preservation resulted in an 18% increase in mercury concentrations in the preserved fish. After accounting for this effect, the study found that longear sunfish from Glover River showed no historical changes in mercury concentrations from 1963 to 2001. The longear sunfish from Mountain Fork River showed no change from 1925 to 1993 but declined significantly from 1993 to 2003. This study shows that museum fish specimens can be used to evaluate historical changes and predict current levels of mercury contamination in fish.

Jaron Hill, J., M. M. Chumchal, et al. (2009). "Use of preserved museum fish to evaluate historical and current mercury contamination in fish from two rivers in Oklahoma, USA." Environ Monit Assess Apr 18. [Epub ahead of print].

Application of ecosystem-scale models to predict fish mercury changes due to atmospheric deposition

This article brings together models that were previously developed and evaluated for modeling watersheds, waterbodies, and food web bioaccumulation of mercury. The models were then used to investigate the timescales required for mercury levels in predatory fish to change in response to altered mercury inputs. A wide range of conditions were explored including a farm pond, a seepage lake, a stratified lake, a drainage lake, and a coastal plain river. The models found that lags were longest for watershed-dominated systems (coastal plain river) and shortest for shallow water bodies (seepage lake). The response time across ecosystems was variable and highly affected by sediment burial rates and active layer depths in systems not dominated by watershed inputs.

Knightes, C. D., E. M. Sunderland, et al. (2009). "Application of ecosystem-scale fate and bioaccumulation models to predict fish mercury response times to changes in atmospheric deposition." Environ Toxicol Chem 28(4): 881-93.

Trend reversal of mercury levels in pike and walleye from Minnesota lakes: 1982-2006

Northern pike and walleye found in Minnesota lakes were evaluated for mercury concentrations using a data set of 1,707 cases from 845 lakes collected over a 25-year period. Based on the regression models, mercury concentrations in these fish species decreased 4.6% per year from 1982 to 1992 and then increased 1.4% per year from 1992 to 2006.

Monson, B. A. (2009). "Trend reversal of mercury concentrations in piscivorous fish from Minnesota lakes: 1982-2006." Environ Sci Technol 43(6): 1750-5.

Exposure and bioaccumulation of PCBs in humans living in a contaminated urban environment

This study investigated the potential contribution of inhalation to the overall human exposure to PCBs in an urban area (Chicago, IL). Humans are also exposed to PCBs by diet. For this study dietary exposure was estimated using measured data for eighteen PCB congeners in different food groups (fish, meat and egg, dairy products). The accumulated mass of PCBs in the body was increased by 30% from exposure to PCBs via inhalation. The model also found that diet is the dominant source of exposure for those PCB congeners that accumulate most in humans.

Norstrom, K., G. Czub, et al. (2009). "External exposure and bioaccumulation of PCBs in humans living in a contaminated urban environment." Environ Int Apr 23. [Epub ahead of print].

Bioaccumulation of PBDEs and HBCD in the northwest Atlantic marine food web

This study evaluates the transfer of PBDEs from prey (teleost fish) to predator (Atlantic harbor seals). Researchers found that tetra- to hexa-BDEs are highly biomagnified in this food web with biomagnification factors (BMFs) averaging from 17 to 76. The occurrence of higher BDEs in northwest Atlantic marine fishes was first reported in this study.

Shaw, S. D., M. L. Berger, et al. (2009). "Bioaccumulation of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and hexabromocyclododecane in the northwest Atlantic marine food web." Science of the Total Environment 407(10): 3323-3329.

Prevalence of diabetes and body burdens of PCBs, PBDEs, and DDE in Great Lakes sport fish consumers

The authors studied the relationship of diabetes in a cross section of Great Lake sport fish consumers to persistent organic pollutant (POP) body burdens. A similar study was conducted in the 1990s. The participants from this study were re-contacted in 2004-2005. Fish consumption and the demographics of the group were self-reported. Serum from participants was collected and tested for DDE, PCBs, PBDEs, hemoglobin A1c and lipids, and diabetes diagnosis. The study found that diabetes was associated with DDE exposure and dioxin-like mono-ortho PCBs but the association of dioxin-like mono-ortho PCBs with diabetes did not remain significant after control for DDE exposure. Researchers did not find an association between either the sum of PCBs or years of sport fish consumption to prevalent diabetes.

Turyk, M., H. A. Anderson, et al. (2009). "Prevalence of diabetes and body burdens of polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and p,p'-diphenyldichloroethene in Great Lakes sport fish consumers." Chemosphere 75(5): 674-679.

Assessment of human health risks posed by consumption of fish from the Lower Passaic River, New Jersey

The authors conducted a risk assessment for potential human health risks associated with consumption of fish from the Lower Passaic River (LPR) in New Jersey. The risk assessment included fish consumption information gathered during a year-long, intercept-style creel angler survey and representative fish tissue concentrations for 156 chemicals of potential concern (COPCs). The results showed that all excess cancer risk estimates were within EPA's acceptable risk range, although non-cancer hazard estimates for PCBs slightly exceeded a Hazard Index of 1. This study found that the concentrations of COPCs found in the LPR do not pose a health risk to people who consume fish from that river.

Urban, J. D., J. A. Tachovsky, et al. (2009). "Assessment of human health risks posed by consumption of fish from the Lower Passaic River, New Jersey." Sci Total Environ Apr 22. [Epub ahead of print].


Meetings and Conferences

Mount Hood provides the backdrop for this view of the Portland, Oregon skyline.

2009 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish

November 2–5, 2009, Portland, Oregon.

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NEHA's 73rd Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition

June 21–24, 2009, Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, please visit:

http://www.neha.org/AEC/2009/index.html Exit EPA Disclaimer

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


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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