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Newsletter—March 2009

Recent Advisory News

US calls for treaty on mercury reduction

Nairobi, Kenya—The U.S. government has drafted an international treaty to help countries reduce mercury emissions, clean up contaminated sites and investigate ways to store mercury safely. The treaty is part of the new administration's environmental policy.


Source: Associated Press (AP); 2/16/2009

Officials warn about eating fish from Badin Lake

Salisbury, NC—Elevated PCB levels have been detected in largemouth bass and catfish in Badin Lake. A fish consumption advisory has been issued for the lake, however state officials are still investigating the source of the PCBs. For more information about the advisory, please visit http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/fish/current.html  Exit EPA Disclaimer .

Source: Salisbury Post (NC); 2/12/2009

DuPont gets more time to test PFCs

Wilmington, DE—The environmental appeals board has granted DuPont an additional three years to complete EPA-mandated testing on perfluoronated compounds which may be unintentionally produced as a result of fluorotelomer products. Dupont has also agreed to phase out the use of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, by 2015.

Source: The News Journal (DE); 2/10/2009

Consumption limit for Twin Lake fish

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN—Levels of perfluorooctonate sulfate (PFOS) found in Twin Lake fish have prompted a fish consumption advisory to be issued. Although the health effects due to human consumption of PFOS are not yet clear, there is some evidence of changes in cholesterol and thyroid function. State officials have advised only one fish meal per month of Twin Lake fish.

Source: Star Tribune (DE); 2/13/2009

Lead used in hunting, fishing raises health concerns

Milwaukee, WI—The use of lead shot and lead sinkers in hunting and fishing has raised concerns and has lead to increased discussion on a transition to nontoxic types of shot. Increased lead levels have been observed in wildlife and have also been linked to increased risks in children who consume game.

Source: Journal Sentinel (WI); 2/10/2009

Thousands of fish die after chemical spill in the Victoria Barge Canal

Victoria, TX—Approximately two gallons of acetone cyanohydrin were spilled in the Victoria Barge Canal, resulting in the death of 2,000 to 5,000 fish. Acetone cyanohydrin is used to produce plastics, resins and acrylics.

Source: Rio Grande Valley (TX); 1/30/2009

Lake Madison fish have high mercury levels

Bryan-College Station, TX—The Texas Department of Health Services has issued a fish consumption advisory for largemouth bass in Lake Madison. The fish were found to contain elevated mercury levels. Officials advise no more than two eight ounce meals per month should be consumed by adults and no more than two four ounce meals per month for children.

Source: The Eagle (TX); 1/23/2009

Mercury rising in Minnesota fish

Duluth, MN—Scientists were surprised by results indicating that mercury in Minnesota lakes have been increasing since the mid-nineties, approximately 15% between 1996 and 2006. Although the exact cause is unknown, scientists speculate that mercury-spiked emissions from power plants around the world may be atmospherically transported to the lakes. Other hypotheses include increased transformation of mercury to bioaccumulative forms, possibly due to climate-change induced water fluctuations.

Source: Park Rapid Enterprise (MN); 2/18/2009

Mitsubishi Cement Corp. says mercury contaminating fish at Big Bear Lake didn't originate at Lucerne Valley plant

San Bernardino, CA—Mitsubishi Cement Corporation has released a statement citing that downwind location of the cement plant makes it an unlikely source of mercury to Big Bear Lake. Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board is investigating the source of mercury contamination that has cause elevated mercury concentrations in largemouth bass. According to data from the EPA, two other cement plants and one oil refinery emitted larger volumes of mercury in 2006 than Mitsubishi Cement Corporation.

Source: The Press-Enterprise (CA); 1/18/2009

Current Events

Role of selenium in mitigating mercury toxicity

This paper advocates for the consideration of selenium intake when evaluating the risk posed by mercury exposure. Increased maternal intake of dietary selenium prevents pathological effects because it preserves the activity of selenium-dependent fetal brain enzymes that would otherwise be inhibited by the presence of mercury.

Berry, M. J. and N. V. Ralston (2009). "Mercury Toxicity and the Mitigating Role of Selenium." Ecohealth: 2009 Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print].

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How people perceive the health risks and benefits of eating fish

This paper examines how much recreational fishers in the New York Bight know about the risks and benefits of fish consumption. The authors found that nearly 70% of those surveyed said it was healthy to eat fish, and 45% were aware that fish were rich in healthy oils. While most respondents knew about health risks (70%), few knew the specific causes, and their knowledge of which fish were high in contaminants did not match the mercury or PCB levels in those fish. Although these data indicate a lack of correct information necessary to make informed risk-balancing decisions, over a third of respondents did not feel they needed to know any more information.

Burger, J. and M. Gochfeld (2009). "Perceptions of the risks and benefits of fish consumption: Individual choices to reduce risk and increase health benefits." Environ Res: 2009 Feb 2. [Epub ahead of print].

Effects of eutrophication on mercury methylation in an Idaho reservoir

This study examined the processes of mercury methylation at the sediment/water interface in the Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir (SFCR) in southern Idaho, which has been under a fish consumption advisory for mercury since 2001. The highest concentrations for mercury in sediment were generally found at the sediment /water interface, and concentrations declined with depth. The authors conducted methylation rate experiments using sediment from the sediment/water interface and found high rates of mercury methylation ranging from 2.3-17%/day. The results indicate that methylation of mercury is highly influenced by the hypolimnetic and eutrophic conditions in this reservoir.

Gray, J. E. and M. E. Hines (2009). "Biogeochemical mercury methylation influenced by reservoir eutrophication, Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir, Idaho, USA." Chemical Geology 258(3-4): 157-167.

Mercury transport and bioaccumulation in wetlands

Measurements collected by the authors along a gradient of geological provinces in South Carolina show that mercury is associated with organic matter in water bodies throughout the state. Overall, there is a gradient across the state, with water column concentrations of total mercury and TOC increasing from the blue ridge/piedmont region to the coastal floodplain region. The coastal plain study sites had a higher percentage of wetlands, and the study found a significant correlation between mean fish mercury concentrations in largemouth bass and percent of watershed area covered by wetlands. The authors conclude that increasing percentages of wetland area contribute to fish mercury concentrations in SC coastal plain rivers.

Guentzel, J. L. (2009). "Wetland influences on mercury transport and bioaccumulation in South Carolina." Science of the Total Environment 407(4): 1344-1353.

Perception of risk by Chesapeake Bay fishers

Recreational and occupational fishers in the Chesapeake Bay area were surveyed and reported their average fish and shellfish consumption on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. The authors found that the number of reported meals per year differed depending on the specific survey method. The average meal size for those who ate fish was 8.9 ounces. About 70% of fish consumed was self-caught and 50% was from Virginia waters. The authors found that the fishers' perception of risk and their occupations were correlated with both fish consumption levels and consumption of fish from waters under advisory.

Harris, S. A., A. Urton, et al. (2009). "Fish and shellfish consumption estimates and perceptions of risk in a cohort of occupational and recreational fishers of the Chesapeake Bay." Environmental Research 109(1): 108-115.

Change in contaminant levels in Great Lakes fish consumers

The authors analyzed demographic and fish consumption data collected from Great Lakes charter boat captains and anglers from 1988-1994, as well as blood samples and survey data collected from a subset of the participants in 1994-95 and from 2001-2005. They discovered a trend for increasing overall fish consumption among most participant groups, however the consumption of Great Lakes sportfish decreased significantly in the captains over the study period. Serum concentrations of DDE declined in 90% of participants and concentrations of total PCBs declined in 80% of participants.

Knobeloch, L., M. Turyk, et al. (2009). "Temporal changes in PCB and DDE levels among a cohort of frequent and infrequent consumers of Great Lakes sportfish." Environmental Research 109(1): 66-72.

Hormone disruption by PBDEs in adult male sport fish consumers

The results of this study suggest that increased body burdens of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are positively associated with increases in two types of hormones, thyroglobulin antibodies and thyroxine, a thyroid hormone. Increases in hormones were not found to be associated with sport fish consumption.

Turyk, M. E., V. W. Persky, et al. (2008). "Hormone disruption by PBDEs in adult male sport fish consumers." Environ Health Perspect 116(12): 1635-41.

NHANES: Fish consumption and regional variation in blood mercury levels of women

The authors analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2004 to determine the regional distribution of blood mercury concentrations among women of childbearing age, and their association with fish consumption. They found that blood mercury concentrations were associated with the region, income, and ethnicity of the study participants. Women living in coastal areas of the United States more commonly had elevated blood mercury levels. The Northeast region had the highest exposure, followed by the South and West, and then the Midwest. Also, Asian women and women with higher incomes ate more fish and had higher blood mercury levels. Over the course of the study, blood mercury concentrations decreased although fish consumption did not, corresponding with a shift over this time period in the particular fish species consumed.

Mahaffey, K. R., R. P. Clickner, et al. (2009). "Adult women's blood mercury concentrations vary regionally in the United States: association with patterns of fish consumption (NHANES 1999-2004)." Environ Health Perspect 117(1): 47-53.

Bioaccumulation of mercury in Narragansett Bay fish

This study investigated the bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of mercury in striped bass and tautog from Narragansett Bay. Total mercury in fish muscle tissue was evaluated and found to be positively correlated with fish age and length for both species. Striped bass accumulated mercury faster, which is consistent with its higher trophic and the higher level of mercury in its preferred prey. The authors found that three-quarters of legal-size striped bass and close to half of tautog had mercury levels above the US EPA regulatory threshold of 0.3mg. The relationship between fish length and mercury level in this study suggests that each target fish meets this threshold near their minimum legal catch length.

Piraino, M. N. and D. L. Taylor (2008). "Bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of mercury in striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and tautog (Tautoga onitis) from the Narragansett Bay (Rhode Island, USA)." Mar Environ Res: 2008 Dec 24. [Epub ahead of print].

Large and growing environmental reservoirs of Deca-BDE present an emerging health risk for fish and marine mammals

This paper reviews the research documenting the rapid emergence of PBDEs as a high priority environmental concern. PBDEs from sewage discharge and atmospheric deposition continue to find their way in to the aquatic environment. In certain environmental compartments, the congener BDE-209 is present in concentrations greater than PCBs or DDT. The threat is likely to be long-term because large environmental reservoirs of BDE-209 are being created in sediments, and it will break down into PBDE congeners that will be more persistent, bioaccumulative, and more toxic in the environment.

Ross, P. S., C. M. Couillard, et al. (2009). "Large and growing environmental reservoirs of Deca-BDE present an emerging health risk for fish and marine mammals." Marine Pollution Bulletin 58(1): 7-10.

Metal concentrations in fish from streams contaminated by lead-zinc mining

The authors collected samples from northern hog suckers at nine sites in southeastern Missouri and analyzed for cadmium, cobalt, lead, nickel, and zinc. Concentrations of all metals except zinc were higher at sites located downstream from active and historic mines than at nonmining sites. This study also evaluated the efficacy of blood sampling as an alternative to fillet sampling. Based on the results, the authors suggest that blood sampling could provide reasonably precise estimates of fillet lead, cobalt, and cadmium concentrations that would be suitable for identifying contaminated sites and for monitoring, but for the purpose of establishing consumption advisories some fillet sampling might be necessary.

Schmitt, C. J., W. G. Brumbaugh, et al. (2009). "Concentrations of Cadmium, Cobalt, Lead, Nickel, and Zinc in Blood and Fillets of Northern Hog Sucker (Hypentelium nigricans) from Streams Contaminated by Lead-Zinc Mining: Implications for Monitoring." Arch Environ Contam Toxicol: 2009 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print].

Prevalence of diabetes and POP levels in Great Lakes sport fish consumers

The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is related to diabetes in Great Lake sport fish consumers using a cohort studied in 1991 and again in 2004-2005. The authors found that diabetes was associated primarily with DDE exposure. Diabetes was not associated with the sum of PCBs or the number of years of sport fish consumption. The authors suggest that future studies should investigate the biologic pathways by which POPs may affect glucose homeostasis.

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: 2009 Jan 19. [Epub ahead of print].

Meetings and Conferences


2009 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish

November 2–4, 2009, Portland, Oregon.

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48th Annual Meeting of the Society of Toxicology (SOT)

March 15–19, 2009, Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, please visit:

http://www.toxicology.org/ai/meet/am2009/ Exit EPA Disclaimer

11th Annual Workshop on Brominated Flame Retardants

May 19–20, 2009, Ottawa, Ontario. For more information, please visit:

http://www.ec.gc.ca/scitech/default.asp?lang=En&n=6D0D0FE3-1 Exit EPA Disclaimer

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

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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