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Newsletter - August 2005

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

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Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • Canada needs stronger rules for fish farm contaminants. CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. (CP) - Creative Salmon, a salmon farm that voluntarily suspended sales, has received permission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to resume production; however, the farm feels the Canadian government should enact more stringent standards for the suspected carcinogen malachite green, which was found in the fish and resulted in the farm's temporary closure. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency analyzed additional fish samples, all of which proved negative in laboratory testing for malachite green. Currently, the agency Health Canada maintains a zero tolerance level for malachite green, a cancer-causing chemical that was once used as a fungicide on fish eggs. Canada banned the use of the chemical in 1992, although Canadian authorities acknowledge that malachite green has been detected in fish in Ontario and British Columbia and is currently a national issue for the agency. Health Canada is investigating the issue and accelerating its fish analysis program that includes wild-caught fish, including Chinook salmon. Malachite green is still distributed throughout the world, is used as a green dye for textiles and paper products, and may have been discharged into the environment by pulp and paper mills.

    Source: Copyright © 2005 Canadian Press, Thu Jun 30, 11:40 PM ET.

  • Fish consumption among healthy adults is associated with decreased levels of inflammatory markers related to cardiovascular disease: The ATTICA study. The authors investigated the association between fish consumption and levels of various inflammatory markers among adults without cardiovascular disease symptoms. Fish consumption has been linked with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, but the mechanisms of this reduction are not well understood. The ATTICA study is a cross-sectional survey of 1,514 men (aged 18 to 87 years) and 1,528 women (aged 18 to 89 years) from Attica, Greece. Investigators measured inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, serum amyloid A (SAA), and white blood cells (WBC), and evaluated study participants dietary habits (including fish consumption) using a food-frequency questionnaire. About 88% of the men and 91% of the women participating in the study reported eating fish at least once a month. Participants that consumed >300 g of fish per week had 33% lower CRP levels, 33% lower IL-6 levels, 21% lower TNF-alpha levels, 28% lower SAA levels, and 4% lower WBC counts (all p < 0.05) than non-fish consumers. Significant results were also reported when 150 to 300 g/week of fish were consumed. The authors concluded that fish consumption was associated with lower inflammatory markers levels among healthy adults.

    Source: Zampelas. A., D.B. Panagiotakos, C. Pitsavos, U.N. Das, C. Chrysohoou, Y. Skoumas, and C. Stefanadis. 2005. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 46 (1): 120-4.

  • Fish consumption (hair mercury) and nutritional status of Amazonian Amer-Indian children. Fish are important dietary items for the Amer-Indians, and total hair-Hg (HHg) concentration is a reliable indicator of fish consumption. The authors studied the effects of fish consumption (HHg) on the nutrition of Indian children of Eastern Amazonia. Weight-for-height Z score (WHZ). HHg was measured in 203 children < 10 years of age in three villages. The children of the Kayabi village had HHg levels of 16.55 ppm and significantly higher fish consumption than children of Munduruku villages of Missao-Cururu (4.76 ppm) and Kaburua (2.87 ppm). WHZ means of -0.27, -0.22, and 0.40, respectively, were observed for Kayabi, Missao-Cururu, and Kaburua villages. A different pattern of fish protein consumption existed among the tribes, although there was no significant correlation between WHZ and HHg concentrations. The authors used dietary differences among Amazonian tribes in evaluating health outcomes. Higher fish consumption, although important for Kayabis, was compensated for by other protein sources by the Kaburua villagers.

    Source: Dorea, J.G., A.C. Barbosa, I. Ferrari, and J.R. De Souza. 2005. American Journal of Human Biology 17 (4): 507-14.

  • Fish consumption and blood mercury: Proven health benefits or probable neurotoxic risk? Because methylmercury (MMHg) is a neurotoxin, it is important to avoid any MMHg contamination through fish consumption. During pregnancy and breast-feeding, however, and proven benefits of fish consumption are of undeniable importance. The authors discuss the importance of fish consumption and the implied risk of neurological hazard due to probable MMHg toxicity. Fish and derived fish oils are medically important in immunology, with benefits in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, reproductive health, fetal growth, neuro-development, and cardiovascular disease prevention in healthy and susceptible groups. Mercury contamination from industrial sources produces organic-Hg compounds frequently assumed to be the background levels of naturally occurring MMHg consumed during fish consumption. It is an oversimplification to attribute neurological hazards solely to fish-MMHg when mixtures of halogenated organic pollutants (HOP) co-occur in fish and seafood. Consumption of fish, fish oils, and fishmeal-raised animal products is a human exposure pathway not only to naturally occurring MMHg, but also to chemical mixtures of HOPs. HOP substances are not just neurotoxins, but are also endocrine disruptors. Because there are no ways to reduce fish-MMHg, health department-issued advisories are used to limit fish consumption by targeting only fish-MMHg. The extensive use of fishmeal as a source of animal protein also impacts Hg exposure in non-fish eaters. Societal effects of fish advisories and their impact on the health of fish consumers are unclear. Affluent, educated consumers can purchase alternative protein sources; however, poor, uneducated consumers that depend on subsistence fishing do not have the resources to make successful dietary changes. The authors believe that it is unsatisfactory that fish consumption must be restricted to achieve low levels of fish-MMHg exposure. They believe that society should not focus only on the need to reduce naturally occurring fish-Hg, but extend these restrictions to include bioaccumulative environmental-pollutants in fish. Because aquatic ecosystems receive discharges of persistent bioaccumulative substances, current fish advisories are of limited value.

    Source: Dorea, J.G., and A.C. Barbosa. 2005. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 42(2): 249-50.

  • Management options to reduce exposure to methylmercury through the consumption of fish and fishery products by the French population. The authors provide an updated assessment of methylmercury exposure through fish consumption in the French population and recommend several management scenarios that could potentially reduce exposure through changes in fish contamination concentrations and fish consumption patterns. For this study, the authors used an exposure model previously applied by Tressou et al. (2004a), as well as a probabilistic exposure assessment to food chemicals based on extreme value theory and statistical methods used by Tressou et al. (2004b). The authors also used these methods to obtain a realistic estimate of probability and confidence intervals concerning French consumers exposed to levels exceeding the revised provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) for methylmercury of 1.6 ug/week/kg of body weight, established by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives. The authors' results show that young children (aged 3 to 6 years or 7 to 10 years) and women of childbearing age are the primary risk groups. According to the fish consumer's patterns (e.g., consumers of predatory fish only, or consumers of predatory and nonpredatory fish), the results suggest that strategies to diminish MeHg exposure by reducing the amount of predatory fish consumed is a more efficient way of decreasing the probability of exceeding the PTWI than the implementation of international standards.

    Source: Crepet, A., J. Tressou, P. Verger, and J.C. Leblanc. 2005. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 42 (2): 179-89.

  • Consumer perception versus scientific evidence about health benefits and safety risks from fish consumption. The authors investigated the gap between consumer perception and scientific evidence related to health benefits and safety risks from fish consumption. Consumer perceptions from a cross-sectional survey conducted in March 2003 in Belgium were compared with scientific evidence based on a literature review. A quota sampling procedure was used with age as the quota control variable. Subjects completed a self-administered questionnaire that included questions about health benefit beliefs from fish, fish content, and effect beliefs for nutrients and harmful substances. The adult test population (n=429), who were the main persons responsible for food purchasing in their households (284 women, 145 men; aged 18-83 years), were from different regional, education, family size, and income groups. Fish is perceived as a healthy food that reduces risk for coronary heart disease. This perception is stronger among women than among men. In this study, 46% of the consumers erroneously believe that fish contains dietary fiber, whereas less than 33% are aware that fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that have a positive impact on health. The gap between perception and evidence is larger among consumers with less education. Consumers have a clearer concept of the content and effect of harmful substances than of nutrients in fish. Despite evidence about the content and positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids in fish, related consumer awareness and beliefs are poor and often in error. The authors recommend that nutrition education and more effective communication about the human health benefits of fish consumption is greatly needed.

    Source: Verbeke, W., I. Sioen, Z. Pieniak,, J. Van Camp, and S. De Henauw. 2005. Public Health Nutrition 8 (4): 422-9.

  • Determination of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans in marine products. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been widely used as flame retardants in plastics and textiles and are now ubiquitous environmental pollutants. Polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PBDD/DFs) produced in the manufacture of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) such as PBDEs have toxicities similar to those of chlorinated dioxins and are formed by the combustion of substances containing BFRs. Several congeners of PBDD/DFs and PBDEs have been measured in adipose tissue of the Japanese. Food is believed to be an exposure pathway, although few data are available on the levels of brominated compounds in food. The authors measured brominated organic compound concentrations in various foods and estimated their effect on human exposure. Analysis of marine product samples found that several PBDE congeners were measured in raw fish, processed fish, and seaweed; the highest level of ?PBDEs was detected in yellowtail (1,161 pg/g), followed by mackerel (553 pg/g). In marine samples, the most dominant congener was 2,2',4,4'-tetraBDE (#47).

    Source: Ashizuka, Y., R. Nakagawa, K. Tobiishi, T. Hori, and T. Iida. 2005. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 18; 53(10): 3807-13.

  • Persistent organic pollutants in edible marine species from the Gulf of Naples, Southern Italy. The edible tissues of ten marine species collected from the Gulf of Naples from February to July 2003 were analyzed for organochlorine pesticides (e.g., hexachlorobenzene [HCB] , DDTs [p,p'-DDT, p,p'-DDE, and p,p'-DDD], and 20 polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs]). Total PCBs (calculated as the sum of all the determined congeners) showed the highest levels (56 to 47,909 ppb lipid basis), followed by the DDTs (sum of p,p'-DDT and its metabolites; and HCB . Significant differences existed in levels of DDTs and PCBs among the various species. Organochlorine pollutants were most evident in strictly residential species that inhabit shallow coastal waters. Contamination of the Gulf of Naples by these compounds is likely derived from local agricultural, industrial, and municipal sources. In this study, DDT and PCB concentrations were comparable or higher than those found in similar studies from Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean regions subject to a high anthropogenic impact. HCB and DDT residue concentrations were well below the Maximum Residue Limits for foods of animal origin (0.2 and 1 mg/kg fat weight for HCB and DDTs calculated as the sum of p,p'-DDT, p,p'-DDE, p,p'-DDD, and o,p'-DDT, respectively). Total PCBs (calculated as the sum of seven "target" congeners 28, 52, 101, 118, 138, 153, and 180) were detected in all the analyzed samples at concentrations exceeding the action limit of 200 ng/g fat weight recommended by the European Union for eggs, fresh pig meat, fresh poultry meat, and derived products.

    Source: Naso, B., D. Perrone, M.C. Ferrante, M. Bilancione, and A. Lucisano. 2005. Science of the Total Environment 343(1-3):83-95.

  • Exposure of Arctic populations to methylmercury from consumption of marine food: An updated risk-benefit assessment. Epidemiological studies have been used to revise international and domestic guidelines for human exposure to mercury. Long-range atmospheric transport of mercury into the Arctic region causes some Arctic inhabitants that consume traditional marine foods, particularly newborns, children, and pregnant women, to be particularly vulnerable to harmful mercury exposures. Recently, the WHO, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Health Canada revised their mercury intake guidelines as a result of neurological effects reported in children exposed in utero and adults. Reference values are equivalent to 0.23 ug/kg-bw/d, 0.1 mg/kg-bw/d, and 0.2 ug/kg-bw/d, respectively. The most recent findings suggest that mercury may be a factor in ischemic heart disease, and that this may result in a lowering of these reference values. When considering the benefits of marine omega -3- fatty acids and guidance that people should consume 300-400g fish/week, consumers are faced with a reality that most ocean and relatively "unpolluted" fish species contain mercury concentrations that would lead to exposures at current reference levels. The authors believe that there is no more room for additional mercury pollution and that there is an immediate need for international action to reduce mercury emissions. To provide fish advisories to highly exposed populations in the Arctic, public health authorities require a more comprehensive understanding of the interactions and benefits of marine foods that may reduce health risks associated with low-level mercury exposure.

    Source: Hansen, J.C. and A.P. Gilman. 2005. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 64 (2): 121-36.

  • Speciation of mercury and mode of transport from placer gold mine tailings. Historic placer mining for gold in the Clear Creek tributary to the Sacramento River has impacted the hydrology and ecology of this important salmonid spawning stream. Watershed restoration utilized dredge tailings contaminated with mercury (Hg) introduced during the gold mining process, which resulted in the possibility of persistent Hg release to the surrounding environment, including the San Francisco Bay Delta. The extent of Hg transport under chemical conditions potentially similar to those in river restoration projects utilizing dredge tailings was examined. Physicochemical perturbations (e.g., shifts in column influent ionic strength and the presence of a low molecular weight organic acid) were applied to coarse and fine sand placer tailings containing 109-194 and 69-90 ppb Hg, respectively. Significant levels of mercury, up to 16 ppb, were leached from these sediments in dissolved and particle-associated forms. Sequential chemical extractions of the mine tailings indicate that elemental Hg, introduced during gold mining, has been transformed to readily soluble species, such as mercury oxides and chlorides (3-4%), intermediately extractable phases that include (in)organic sorption complexes and amalgams (75-87%), and fractions of highly insoluble forms (mercury sulfides 6-20%, such as cinnabar and metacinnabar). Cinnabar particles were identified as the dominant mobile mercury-bearing colloids.

    Source: Slowey, A.J., J.J. Rytuba, and G.E. Brown. 2005. Environmental Science and Technology 39 (6): 1547-54.

  • Proposed selenium standard under attack. The EPA's proposed selenium standard for discharges to rivers has been questioned by aquatic biologists and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) experts. EPA officials contend that the proposed standard-which was praised by power companies, mining officials, and California farmers-reflects the selenium study's findings and will provide standards with a better scientific basis to protect sensitive fish. This is only the latest controversy over the selenium standard to pit DOI scientists against industry scientists and EPA. Disputes began when EPA established a chronic water quality standard of 5 ppb in 1987. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Service biologists argued that the standard should be reduced by half (2.5 ppb) to protect fish and birds. Industries that discharge selenium have claimed that the standard is overprotective and burdens operators with excessive compliance costs (see Environmental Science and Technology 1998, 32, 350A;2003, 37, 274A-275A).

    Source: Renner, R. 2005. Environmental Science and Technology 39 (6): 125A-126A.

  • Mercury in freshwater fish of northeast North America - A geographic perspective based on fish tissue monitoring databases. The authors analyzed a large data set comprised of 15,305 records of fish tissue mercury data from 24 studies from New York State to Newfoundland. Mean mercury concentrations for 40 fish species and associated families were determined. Detailed analyses were conducted using data for 13 species. Mercury in fish varied by geographic area, waterbody type, and waterbody. The four species with the highest mean mercury levels were muskellunge, walleye, white perch, and northern pike. Several species had elevated mercury levels in reservoirs, relative to lakes and rivers. Certain geographic regions showed generally below or above-average mercury concentrations in fish, whereas significant heterogeneity was evident across the United States. The proportion of waterbodies exhibiting exceedances of EPA's methylmercury criterion for fish ranged from 14% for standard-length brook trout fillets to 42% for standard-length yellow perch fillets. Correlation analysis found that fish mercury levels correlated with waterbody acidity and watershed size.

    Source: Kamman, N.C., N.M. Burgess, C.T. Driscoll, H.A. Simonin, W. Goodale, J. Linehan, R. Estabrook, M. Hutcheson, A. Major, A.M. Scheuhammer, and D.A. Scruton. 2005. Ecotoxicology 14 (1-2): 163-80.

  • Human health research and policy development: Experience in the Great Lakes region. Great Lakes states have issued fish advisories to encourage practices that minimize exposure to contaminants in Great Lakes sport fish. The authors propose to outline how scientific findings have influenced policy and the impacts that these decisions have had on the health status of the public in the Great Lakes area. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and mercury are two contaminants resulting in the largest number of fish advisories. Researchers have studied Great Lakes populations to determine their level of awareness about fish consumption advisories. These researchers found that about 50% of residents who eat Great Lakes sport fish were aware of existing fish advisories. Of those with awareness, almost 60% were males, and only about 40% were females. Greater awareness among males to the health advisory materials was thought to be because males receive this information from fishing licensors and contact with fishing-related groups. Lower awareness among women about fish advisories prompted researchers to recommend targeting risk communication programs for female consumers of Great Lakes sport fish. The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services developed uniform outreach materials for women, minorities, and the general public to be used by the Great Lakes states. The policy change directing educational materials to at-risk groups (e.g., women of reproductive age and minorities) was a direct outgrowth of the finding of low female awareness.

    Source: Ashizawa, A.E., H.E. Hicks, and C.T. De Rosa. 2005. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 208 (1-2): 7-13.

  • Mercury content in Pacific troll-caught albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga). Flesh from albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) caught during the 2003 commercial fishing season was analyzed for total mercury content. The 91 fish were captured from waters off Southern California, north to waters off the northern tip of Washington between July and November. Sampled fish weighed 3.14-11.62 kg and were 50.8-86.4 cm long. Total mercury content ranged from 0.027 ppm to 0.26 ppm. The mean total mercury content was 0.14 ppm, below the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action level and Canadian standards (1.0 ppm methylmercury and 0.50 ppm total Hg, respectively). Total mercury concentrations were positively correlated with fish length and weight. Pacific troll-caught albacore tuna contain low concentrations of total mercury in their flesh and are within international safety standards for mercury levels in fish.

    Source: Morrissey, M.T., R. Rasmussen, and T. Okada. 2004. Journal of Aquatic Food Products Technology. 13(4): 41-52.

  • As canned tuna sales dive, companies plan ad blitz to reel buyers back in. SAN DIEGO, CA (UT) - These days, American consumers are not buying as much canned tuna, which for decades was the primary seafood eaten in the United States. This decline has caused a revenue loss of almost $150 million for the industry. Tuna sales have fallen 10 % nationwide since March 2004, when FDA and EPA issued a joint mercury advisory for children and women of child-bearing age to limit their consumption of fish that contain mercury concentrations. For the first time, this warning specifically mentioned canned tuna. In addition, California's Attorney General filed suit in June 2004 to force the tuna companies to post warnings about mercury in tuna next to the supermarket displays or on the tuna cans directly. Although the downward trend in tuna consumption may be a result of the national mercury advisory, the result also may be a result of shifting consumption trends in seafood selection. More consumers are currently eating farmed shrimp and salmon than tuna.

    Source: Copyright © 2005 UNION-TRIBUNE, Terry Rodgers, July 27, 2005.

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    Meetings and Conferences

    • American Fisheries Society 135th Annual Meeting. The 135th Annual Meeting of the AFS will be held at the Egan Convention Center and Performing Arts Center in Anchorage, Alaska September 11-15, 2005. The meeting's theme will be "Creating A Fisheries Mosaic: Connections Across Jurisdictions, Disciplines, and Cultures." Get more information and register here: http://www.wdafs.org/Anchorage2005/index.htm Exit EPA Disclaimer
    • 23rd Wakefield Fisheries Symposium: Biology, Assessment and Management of North Pacific Rockfishes. The 23rd Wakefield Fisheries Symposium will be held in Anchorage, Alaska September 12-15, 2005. To get more information, please go to the website http://www.uaf.edu/seagrant/Conferences/rockfish/info.html or contact Sherri Pristash, fyconf@uaf.edu, 907/474-6701. American Fisheries Society. Exit EPA Disclaimer
    • EPA Forum on Chemical Contaminants in Fish. The 8th Annual Forum on Chemical Contaminants in Fish will be held at the Marriott Baltimore Inner Harbor at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland September 18-21, 2005. Get more information, submit a poster, and register here: http://epa.gov/ost/fish/forum/2005/
    • The Coastal Cutthroat Symposium: Biology, Status, Management, and Conservation. The Coastal Cutthroat Symposium will be held in Fort Worden State Park (near Port Townsend, WA) September 29-October 1, 2005. To get more information, please go to the website http://www.orafs.org or contact Tim Cummins, Tim_Cummins@fws.gov, 360/604-2512. American Fisheries Society. Exit EPA Disclaimer
    • 59th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies: When Practice Meets Policy. The 59th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies will be held in St. Louis, MO October 16-19, 2005. To get more information, please go to the website http://www.sdafs.org. American Fisheries Society. Exit EPA Disclaimer
    • Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers 2005 Annual Meeting and Conference. The Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers 2005 Annual Meeting and Conference will be held in Tallahassee, FL October 17-20, 2005. To get more information, please go to the website http://www.ofwim.org. Exit EPA Disclaimer
    • Salmon 2100 Project: Alternative Futures for Pacific Salmon in Western North America. The Salmon 2100 Project will be held in Portland, OR, on October 27, 2005. To get more information, contact Robert T. Lackey, Robert@epa.gov, 541/754-4607.
    • Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). November 13-17, 2005, Baltimore, MD. Get more information here: http://www.setac.org/baltimore/baltimore.html exit EPA

    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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