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Water: News

Newsletter - August 2004

Note: The following summaries are based on articles from the press and from peer-reviewed publications, and they represent the opinions of the original authors. The views of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government.


Recent Advisory News

  • State advisories on mercury Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont health departments have statewide mercury advisories in effect for freshwater fish. Where lake and river systems cross state borders, statewide advice is not always consistent:
    • In Maine, anyone can safely eat brook trout and landlocked salmon once a month, but all other species are off-limits to the high-risk.
    • In New Hampshire, high-risk groups should eat one meal a month of any fish less then a foot long. Smallmouth bass and pickerel caught in certain ponds are off-limits to all groups.
    • In Vermont, high-risk people should only eat one meal a month of lake trout, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel, while others can safely eat three meals a month.
    A federal advisory recommends that children and nursing and pregnant women eat only two, 12-ounce meals a week of low-mercury fish like canned tuna, salmon, shrimp, pollock and catfish. Barry Dana, chief of Maine's Penobscot Nation, says the Penobscot River's increasing pollution changed his culture. "It's ingrained in our culture that we live off the land," he said. "Once we warmed up to the fact that the river was extremely polluted we had to make a conscious decision of turning our backs from sustaining our diet from fish."

    Source: The Associated Press, July 29, 2004

  • Mercury Levels Prompt New Advisories On Eating NY Sportfish Warnings were issued about fish in three New York City reservoirs and 13 new bodies of water elsewhere -- 10 of them in the Adirondack Mountains. In all but one instance, higher-than-acceptable mercury levels detected in fish samples prompted the new advisories. The exception was the Health Department's warning against eating more than one meal per month of American eel taken from Upper Twin Pond in Orange County because of elevated chlordane levels. The new warnings bring to 50 the number of New York waterways with health advisories due to elevated mercury levels. Thirty are in the Adirondacks. In general, the Health Department advises New Yorkers against eating more than a meal a week from any body of water in the state, even those where no specific advisories are posted. Women of childbearing age and people under age 15 are advised not to eat any fish from a waterway where a health advisory is posted.

    Source: The Associated Press. 9:08 am EDT July 15, 2004

  • Drawings serve as warnings about fish consumption in Montana The Montana fish and wildlife agency has printed skeletal drawings of fish as part of the state fishing regulations, to warn people about possible risks from eating fish they reel in. Each drawing indicates a body of water where people are advised to think twice about eating what they catch. The regulation book contains about three dozen drawings of skeletons. In all, 38 bodies of water across the state have some type of warning about fish consumption. No state waters have a ''don't eat'' advisory. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services points out that fish bought in a store or restaurant can contain more mercury than sport fish in Montana. At Hebgen Reservoir near West Yellowstone, where brown trout eat smaller fish, mercury levels range up to .60 parts per million in fish 19 inches or longer. That's approaching the ''don't eat'' level of .66 parts per million for nursing mothers, children under 6 and women of childbearing age.

    Source: The Associated Press - 7/10/04


Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • Tests emerge to assess risks from eating fish Some doctors are now offering screenings that tell patients how much mercury has accumulated in their bodies. The tests, which cost as little as $20, have long been used for people exposed to mercury through industrial accidents. But doctors in a variety of settings -- from primary-care offices to high-end medical spas, like Canyon Ranch -- are increasingly offering the screenings to patients whose primary exposure comes from eating fish. One company, called Body Balance, sells a $59.95 home mercury test that involves clipping a hair sample. In some cases, doctors and alternative-medicine specialists are also using the test results to sell patients costly detoxifying treatments, some of which may pose health risks of their own. One common approach, called chelation therapy, involves drugs that strip heavy metals out of the body. The concern is that the drugs can also strip the body of useful metals like zinc. And the drugs aren't cheap. Sanoviv Medical Institute in Baja, Calif., charges upward of $10,000 for a two-week comprehensive health program that includes chelation therapy. Some practitioners who offer mercury testing are deeming any test result above the government's safe level as being too high. But there is little consensus on whether slightly elevated levels due to fish consumption constitute a danger to most adults, and some medical experts say the risks of casual exposure through fish have been overblown.

    Source: JANE SPENCER, The Wall Street Journal. Tuesday, July 6, 2004

  • New Evidence Shows Benefits of Eating Fish During Pregnancy Conducted by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and published in the July edition of the Journal of Epidemiology, this study assessed the fish intake of more than 7,400 mothers in the United Kingdom (UK) and found that those who ate fish regularly during pregnancy had children with better language and communication skills by the age of 18 months. Additionally, the study examined the fish intake of the children at 6 months and a year of age and found that those who ate fish at least once a week had modestly but consistently higher scores than those who did not. Using used standard tests of language, comprehension, motor and social skills to assess childhood development at 15 and 18 months, the study found a subtle but consistent link between eating fish during pregnancy and a child's early cognitive development, even after adjusting for factors such as the age and education of the mother, whether she breastfed, and the quality of the home environment. The study revealed that the amount of fish associated with these cognitive benefits was one to three servings a week, which is consistent with the advice of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that pregnant women should eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish low in mercury.

    Source: July 14 2004, PRNewswire

  • Accumulation in rats of mercury from different sources A short-term low level exposure experiment was conducted on rats in order to determine urinary and faecal excretion, accumulation, and biological responses to methylmercury from fish products. Male Wistar rats were fed fish-meal diets containing methylmercury contaminated fish (1.45 or 2.61 mgHg/kg as methylmercury), uncontaminated fish supplemented with methylmercury chloride (CH3HgCl) at similar levels (1.24 and 2.49 mgHg/kg, respectively) or uncontaminated fish as a control (0.052 mgHg/kg) for 4 weeks (n=6 rats per treatment). After 2 and 4 weeks of exposure, rats were placed in metabolic chambers for 48 h to assess overall faecal and urinary excretion of mercury. The overall faecal excretion in rats fed fish supplemented with CH3HgCl (12%) was significantly lower (P <0.05) than rats fed methylmercury in fish muscle (19%) or rats fed control diet (76%). Urinary excretion did not differ among the experimental groups. Rats fed the highest level of CH3HgCl had a significantly higher (P <0.05) blood, liver, kidney and brain mercury contamination compared to rats fed methylmercury contaminated fish or rats fed control diet. Metallothionein levels in kidney were significantly higher in CH3HgCl-fed rats compared to rats fed contaminated fish. The authors state that these results indicate a higher faecal excretion and lower tissue accumulation, and metallothionein induction in rats following exposure to methylmercury naturally incorporated in fish compared to methylmercury chloride added to the same matrix.

    Source: Berntssen MH, Hylland K, Lundebye AK, Julshamn K. Food Chem Toxicol 2004 Aug;42(8):1359-66.

  • Probabilistic exposure assessment to heavy metals from fish based on extreme value theory. This paper presents new statistical methods in the field of exposure assessment. The authors focus on the estimation of the probability for the exposure to exceed a fixed safe level such as the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI), when both consumption data and contamination data are independently available. Various calculations of exposure are proposed and compared. For many contaminants, PTWI belongs to the exposure tail distribution, which suggests the use of extreme value theory (EVT) to evaluate the risk. The approach of this study consists in modelling the exposure tail by a Pareto type distribution characterized by a Pareto index which may be seen as a measure of the risk of exceeding the PTWI. Using propositions by EVT specialists, the authors correct the bias of the usual Hill estimator to accurately estimate this risk index. We compare the results with an empirical plug-in method and show that the Pareto adjustment is relevant and efficient when exposure is low compared to the PTWI while the plug-in method should be used when exposure is higher. To illustrate our approach, the authors present some exposure assessment for heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury) via sea product consumption.

    Source: Tressou J, Crepet A, Bertail P, Feinberg MH, Leblanc JCh. Food Chem Toxicol 2004 Aug;42(8):1349-58.

  • Variation of mercury levels in pregnancy in relation to fish consumption in a St. Lawrence River community. The aim of this study was to characterize the temporal variation of Hg during pregnancy and to investigate the relation between fish consumption from various sources prior to and during pregnancy and maternal cord blood and mother's hair Hg levels. The authors recruited 159 pregnant women from Southwest Quebec through two prenatal clinics of the Quebec Public Health System. Results showed that maternal blood and hair Hg levels decreased significantly between the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. However, cord blood Hg was significantly higher than maternal blood at birth. Maternal hair was correlated with Hg blood concentration and was highly predictive of the organic fraction in cord blood. A strong dose relation was observed between the frequency of fish consumption before and during pregnancy and Hg exposure in mothers and newborns. Fish consumption prior to and during pregnancy explained 26% and 20% of cord blood Hg variance, respectively. For this population, detailed multivariate analyses showed that during pregnancy market fish (fresh, canned, and frozen) were more important sources of Hg exposure than were fish from the St. Lawrence River. These results should be taken into account for future advisories and intervention strategies, which should consider Hg levels in different species from all sources in order to maximize the nutritional input from fish and minimize the toxic risk.

    Source: Morrissette J, Takser L, St-Amour G, Smargiassi A, Lafond J, Mergler D. Environ Res 2004 Jul;95(3):363-74.

  • Mercury concentrations in fish from Canadian Great Lakes areas of concern. The tissue mercury concentrations in six species of fish collected at the 17 Areas of Concern identified by the International Joint Commission on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes were analyzed using an Environment Canada database. A linear increase in mercury concentration with fish length was found, but slopes differed among locations. The temporal pattern over the period 1971-1997 differed across species in fish collected in Lake St. Clair; in at least two species there was evidence of increased mercury concentration during the 1990s that had been suggested in an earlier analysis. Areas of Concern differed significantly in observed tissue concentrations. Differences observed did not consistently parallel expectations associated with the historical presence of chlor-alkali plants in the vicinities of some locations. An attempt to correlate the fish tissue mercury concentration with the frequency of occurrence of infantile cerebral palsy at Areas of Concern was unsuccessful.

    Source: Weis IM. Environ Res 2004 Jul;95(3):341-50.

  • The role of sport-fish consumption advisories in mercury risk communication: a 1998-1999 12-state survey of women age 18-45. Advisories to reduce consumption of contaminated fish have been issued by states since the early 1970s. As part of a comprehensive risk-communication project, from December 1998 through August 1999 the Wisconsin Division of Public Health and the State of Maine Bureau of Health conducted a 12-state random-digit-dial telephone survey of 3,015 women of childbearing age (ages 18-45). The goal was to assess the prevalence of fish consumption, understanding of mercury toxicity, and awareness of state sport-fish consumption advisories for mercury. The overall survey completion rate was 57% with a Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO)-calculated response rate of 50%. Most women (71%) were aware of mercury's toxicity to a developing child (87% among those aware of an advisory and 67% among those unaware of an advisory). However, awareness of state advisories was only 20%, ranging by state from 8% to 32%. Women who were older, had more than a high school education, and had a household member with a fishing license were the most informed about mercury and fish-consumption advisories. Most women of childbearing age consume commercial fish and a substantial number also consume sport-caught fish. Despite this potential exposure to dietary mercury, most are unfamiliar with their state's mercury fish-consumption advisory. Most women were aware of the most toxic effects of mercury but less informed about mercury and its relationship to types of fish and fish characteristics. Minorities, women over age 30, family incomes above 25,000 US dollars, and those with some college education were more likely to be consuming two or more fish-meals per week.

    Source: Anderson HA, Hanrahan LP, Smith A, Draheim L, Kanarek M, Olsen J. Environ Res 2004 Jul;95(3):315-24.

  • Relations between land use and organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and semi-volatile organic compounds in streambed sediment and fish on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Bed-sediment and/or fish samples were collected from 27 sites around the island of Oahu (representing urban, agricultural, mixed, and forested land use) to determine the occurrence and distribution of hydrophobic organic compounds including organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs). Of the 28 organochlorine compounds analyzed in the fish, 14 were detected during this study. Nineteen of the 31 organochlorine compounds and 40 of the 65 SVOCs were detected in the sediment. Urban sites had the highest number of detections and tended to have the highest concentrations of pesticides. Chlordane compounds were the most frequently detected constituents at urban sites, followed by dieldrin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and DDT compounds. PAHs were the most frequently detected constituents in watersheds with mixed (urban and agricultural) land use. The only pesticides detected at agricultural sites were DDT and its degradation products, DDD and DDE. No pesticides or PCBs were detected at the forested sites, but a few ubiquitous SVOCs were found in sediments at some forested sites. In general, concentrations of the most frequently detected pesticides were higher in fish than in sediment. Following a trend that has been observed elsewhere in the nation, concentrations of most organochlorine pesticides and PCBs are decreasing in Hawaii.

    Source: Brasher AM. Wolff RH. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 2004 Apr;46(3):385-98.

  • Prediction of PCB content in sportfish using semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs). Triolein-filled semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) were immersed at three locations along the St. Joseph River in northern Indiana for 30 days to see if the PCB content of fish from the same location could be predicted with this model device. Triolein from the SPMD's was analyzed for PCB using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and compared to residues detected in fish collected from the same locations. There was a significant difference (p < 0.05) in total PCB concentrations between SPMD samples. However, due to variability in PCB residues between species and low PCB residues in SPMDs, a direct correlation between PCBs in sportfish and SPMDs could not be determined.

    Source: Shim SM, Santerre CR, Dorworth LE, Miller BK, Stahl JR, Deardorff DC. J Environ Sci Health B 2004 Mar;39(2):263-71.


Meetings and Conferences

  • American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting

    The American Fisheries Society (AFS) will convene its 134th Annual Meeting at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, from August 22nd through August 26th, 2004. The theme celebrates Wisconsin's name (which has been translated as "gathering of waters") and Wisconsin's celebrated ecologist Aldo Leopold. Your hosts invite you to gather with professionals, with colleagues, with old friends, and with new friends on the Isthmus next summer to learn how Leopold's legacy has influenced the conservation of our aquatic resources in the past and to plan how it may influence the future. For more information or to register, visit the website: www.afs2004madison.org/index.shtml.

  • Midwestern States Risk Assessment Symposium

    August 25-27, 2004 at the Indianapolis Hyatt Regency Hotel. The 2nd Midwestern States Risk Assessment Symposium will feature some of the leading experts in the United States as speakers. The format will include oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, and meals with prominent speakers. The symposium will also feature Vendor exhibits and provide many opportunities for networking with colleagues from industry, government, academia, and consulting firms. Four states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio) are co-chairing sessions this year. Additional information, online registration, and abstract submission for papers and posters can be found at www.spea.indiana.edu/msras.

  • Fourth SETAC World Congress

    The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) will hold the Fourth SETAC World Congress and the 25th Annual Meeting for North America concurrently in Portland, OR November 14-18, 2004. The theme for the Fourth SETAC World Congress is "SETAC: 25 Years of Interdisciplinary Science Serving Global Society 1979 - 2004" For more information visit the website: www.setac.org/portland.html.

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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