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Water: News

Newsletter - February 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

  • Texas Speckled Trout Consumption Limit Advised in Houston Ship Channel and Upper Galveston Bay The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issued an advisory that recommending limited consumption of speckled trout from the Houston Ship Channel and Upper Galveston Bay. The fish consumption advisory was issued after DSHS laboratory analyses detected elevated concentrations of PCBs in the speckled trout samples. The DSHS recommends eating no more than eight ounces per month of the speckled trout from the waters identified in the advisory. Women who are pregnant or nursing or who may become pregnant and children should not eat any speckled trout from these waters. A 1990 advisory that is still in effect applies the same consumption advice to catfish and blue crabs from waters identified in the advisory.

    Source: The Houston Chronicle, January 28, 2005


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Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • Watershed land use is strongly linked to PCBs in white perch in Chesapeake Bay subestuaries Scientists from three institutions collaborated to study how total PCBs in white perch related to the amount and arrangement of developed land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The scientists evaluated development intensity in watersheds by looking at four different land-use measures. They also looked at how important the proximity of development was by calculating metrics of development that weighted developed land near the shoreline more heavily than developed land farther away. Unweighted percentages of the four land-use measures explained 51-69% of the variance in total PCBs, whereas using weighted metrics showed a much closer relationship between developed land and total PCBs (93-99%). The study shows that PCBs must be persisting in the environment and that developed land close to the subestuary has the greatest effect on total PCBs in fish. There may be a strong relationship between land use in watersheds and total PCBs in white perch.

    Source: King, R.S., J.R. Beaman, D.F. Whigham, A.H. Hines, M.E. Baker, and and D.E. Weller. Environmental Science and Technology 2004 38 (24): 6546-6552.

  • Mercury, fish oils, and risk of acute coronary events and cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality in men in eastern Finland Mercury has been suggested as having negative effects on cardiovascular health. The authors investigated the effects of high mercury hair content on the risk of acute coronary events and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in men from eastern Finland. The baseline cohort for this study was the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) cohort of 1871 Finnish men aged 42 to 60 years and free of previous coronary heart disease (CHD) or stroke. During a mean follow-up period of 13.9 years, 282 acute coronary events and 132 cardiovascular disease (CVD), 91 CHD, and 525 all-cause deaths occurred. Men in the highest third of hair mercury residues (>2.03 ppm) had an adjusted 1.60-fold risk of acute coronary event, 1.68-fold risk of CVD, 1.56-fold risk of CHD, and 1.38-fold risk of any death compared with men in the lower two thirds of hair mercury levels. High mercury residues in hair may be a risk factor for acute coronary events and CVD, CHD, and all-cause mortality in middle-aged eastern Finnish men. Mercury may also reduce the protective effects of fish on cardiovascular health.

    Source: Virtanen, J. K., S. Voutilainen, S., T. H. Rissanen, J. Mursu , T. Tuomainen, M.J. Korhonen, V. Valkonen, K. Seppanen, J.A. Laukkanen, and J.T. Salonen. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology 2005 25 (1):228-33

  • Unalaska fisheries closed due to spill Anchorage, Alaska For the first time ever, commercial fisheries have been closed on Unalaska Island due to pollution from the wreck of a Malaysian freighter three weeks ago. Monday's closing of two fisheries comes less than a week before commercial fishermen were to take to their boats. On January 1, 2005, Pacific cod season was to open on Unalaska Island, to be followed two weeks later by the opening of the Tanner crab season. Authorities have banned all commercial fishing in the Skan and Makushin Bays, the two bays closest to the wreck of the Selendang Ayu, until further notice. The biggest loss to fishermen is the Tanner crab fishery, with almost 75 percent of those fishing grounds located within 10 or 15 miles of the wreck. Experimental crab pots sampled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in the Skan and Mukushin bays have been collected contaminated with oil.

    Source: Channel 2 Broadcasting Anchorage, AK. December 27, 2004

  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers and organochlorine compounds in biota from the marine environment of East Greenland During the summer 2001, 10 black guillemot eggs, 19 ringed seals, 20 shorthorn sculpins, and 20 Arctic chars were collected around Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund, Central East Greenland) and analyzed for 11 brominated diphenyl ether (BDE) congeners and organochlorine compounds. Congeners BDE85 and BDE183 were not detected in any sample. SBDE was highest in black guillemot eggs, (median 80 parts per billion [ppb] lipid weight). This level was three times higher than levels found in black guillemot eggs from West Greenland, thus supporting the spatial trend observed for organochlorines in Greenland. The median SBDE concentration in ringed seal blubber was 36 ppb lipid weight. This level of contamination was higher than in ringed seal blubber collected from the Canadian Arctic, but slightly lower than those found in ringed seals from Svalbard (collected in 1981) and approximately 10 times lower than in seals from the Baltic Sea. Shorthorn sculpin liver and Arctic char muscle had similar levels of SBDE, both with a median value of 7 -10 ppb lipid weight. The levels in shorthorn sculpin were comparable to those reported in a previous study in Southwest Greenland. SBDE levels correlated with PCBs, DDT, and chlordane concentrations in the same samples, indicating similar mechanisms of uptake, bioaccumulation, and biomagnification. Reasons for the different accumulation patterns are largely unknown and may reflect species-specific differences in pollutant exposure, bioavailability, and metabolism.

    Source: Vorkamp, K., J. H. Christensen, and F. Riget. Science of the Total Environment 2004 331 (1-3): 143-55.

  • Distribution of PCBs and chlorinated pesticide residues in trout in the Sierra Nevada To understand the influence of California's Sierra Nevada range on the air transport and subsequent distribution pattern of some organochlorine compounds within the range, the authors selected salmonid fish as an indicator species. Researchers collected fish from 10 locations throughout the Sierra Nevada and analyzed muscle tissues for PCBs, toxaphene, chlordane, and DDT residues. The study focused on rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) because this species was found in all sampling locations. When similar-sized rainbow trout from similar oligotrophic, high-altitude lakes and streams were compared, it was found that altitude was one factor affecting the contaminant levels of PCB (r 2 = 0.882), but not total DDT, toxaphene, or chlordane levels in trout. There are moderate correlations in the patterns of distribution between chlordane vs. toxaphene (r 2 = 0.345) and chlordane vs. total DDT (r 2 = 0.239), but toxaphene residues are not correlated with PCB or total DDT. Because of the significant correlation of PCB levels and altitude, the authors concluded that PCB residue in rainbow trout is a good monitoring tool for studying the effect of high-altitude mountain ranges on the long-range transport and distribution of persistent pollutants.

    Source: Ohyama, K., J. Angermann, D.Y. Dunlap, and F. Matsumura. Journal of Environmental Quality 2004 33 (5): 1752-64.

  • Market basket study on dietary intake of PCDD/Fs, PCBs, and PBDEs in Finland In this study, the authors measured concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD/F), PCBs, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in 10 market baskets consisting of 4000 individual food samples and representing 228 different food items, as well as in the total diet basket. Concentrations of PCDD/Fs ranged between 0.0057 and 5.6 pg/g fresh weight in the market baskets, and concentrations of PCBs ranged from 39 to 25,000 pg/g. The fish basket contributed most of the dioxin and PCB concentrations, as well as PBDEs that ranged from 0.82 to 850 pg/g. Average daily intakes of these substances by the Finnish adult population were assessed. The average daily intake of the sum of PCDD/Fs and PCBs as World Health Organization (WHO) toxic equivalents was found to be 115 pg, which was 1.5 pg WHO-TEQ/kg body weight, using an average mean weight of 76 kg for the general population in Finland. The contribution of fish consumption to the intake of PCDD/Fs was between 72 to 94 percent, depending on whether lower- or upper-bound concentrations were used. The contribution of PCBs from fish was 80 percent. Calculated intake of PBDEs of 44 ng/day was comparable to intake assessments from other countries. Fish also contributed most to the PBDE intake, but there were some other sources of PBDEs in the market basket that included beverages, spices, and sweets.

    Source: Kiviranta, H., M. L. Ovaskainen, and T. Vartiainen. Environment International 2004 30 (7):923-32.

  • Methylmercury levels in predatory fish species marketed in Canada Health Canada analyzed methylmercury concentrations in shark, marlin, swordfish (fresh and frozen), and tuna (fresh, frozen, and canned) sold in Canada to provide information for a pending review of Health Canada guidelines for permissible mercury levels and species consumption advice. Analysis of methylmercury (as methylmercury bromide) was by gas chromatography (GC), with pulsed discharge detection. Mercury was detected in all samples of swordfish, marlin, shark, and tuna purchased from major supermarket outlets and fish retailers in three cities across Canada. Total mercury and methylmercury concentrations were less than or equal to 3.845 and 2.346 parts per million (ppm), respectively, with swordfish containing the highest levels, followed by shark, fresh/frozen tuna, and marlin. Levels in canned tuna were considerably less than in the other examined samples.

    Source: Forsyth, D. S.; V. Casey, R.W. Dabeka, and A. McKenzie. Food Additives and Contaminants 2004 21(9): 849-856.

  • Hair mercury (signature of fish consumption) and cardiovascular risk in Munduruku and Kayabi Indians of Amazonia Fish are an important natural resource in the diet of inhabitants of the Amazon rain forest. A marker of fish consumption (hair mercury level) was used to compare selected cardiovascular risk parameters between tribes of Eastern Amazonia. Residents of three Munduruku villages and one Kayabi village at the headwater rivers of the Tapajos Basin were studied in relation to fish mercury concentrations, mercury in hair (fish consumption) and erythrocytes, body mass index (height/weight, kg/cm2), and blood pressure. Mean fish mercury concentrations were higher in predatory (578.6 ppb) than in nonpredatory species (52.8 ppb). Overall only 26% of fish mercury concentrations were above 500 ppb, and only 11% were above 1000 ppb. There was no systematic trend in fish mercury concentrations from rivers with a history of gold-mining activities. The biomarker of fish consumption (hair mercury) was significantly associated with erythrocyte-Hg and was significantly higher in Kayabi (12.7 ppm) than in the Munduruku (3.4 ppm). Biomarker-assessed fish consumption rates were higher in the Kayabi (110 g/day) than in the Munduruku villages (30 g/day). The authors reported that there was a trend of lower increase in blood pressure with age among the higher fish consumers (Kayabi). Summary clinical evaluation did not detect neurologic complaints compatible with mercury intoxication (paraparesis, numbness, tremor, balancing failure), but endemic tropical diseases, such as clinical history of malaria, showed a high prevalence (55.4%).

    Source: Dorea, J. G., J.R. de Souza, P. Rodrigues, I. Ferrari, and A.C. Barbosa. Environmental Research 2005 97 (2): 209-19.

  • Application of hair-mercury analysis to determine the impact of a seafood advisory Health officials in the Faroe Islands recommended that women should abstain from eating mercury-contaminated pilot whale meat. The authors conducted a survey to obtain information on dietary habits related to whale meat and collected hair samples for mercury analysis after this recommendation was made. A letter was sent to all 1180 women aged 26-30 years who lived in the Faroe Islands. The women were contacted again one year later. A total of 415 women responded to the first letter; a second letter resulted in 145 repeat hair samples and 125 new responses. Survey results showed that Faroese women consumed whale meat for dinner only once every second month, but the frequency and meal size depended on the availability of locally available whale meat. The geometric mean hair-mercury level in the first survey was higher in areas with locally available whale meat than in those without (3.03 vs. 1.88 ppm; P=0.001). Mercury levels also depended on the frequency of whale meat consumption. The 36 women who did not eat whale meat at all had a geometric mean hair-mercury concentration of 1.28 ppm. In the second survey, the geometric mean had declined to 1.77 ppm (P<0.001), although whale was now available in all areas. In comparison with previously published data on hair-mercury concentrations in pregnant Faroese women, these results document substantially lower exposures, as well as a further decline associated with the issuance of a stricter dietary advisory.

    Source: Weihe, P., P. Grandjean, and P. J. Jorgensen. Environmental Research 2005 97 (2): 200-207.

  • Blood mercury level and blood pressure among US women: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2000 Mercury exposure has been linked to elevation of blood pressure, though few data are available. The authors evaluated the cross-sectional relationship between blood mercury levels and BP in a representative U.S. sample of 1240 women (16-49 years), from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2000. The authors found no association between mercury and blood pressure in multivariate models when data were stratified by dietary fish intake (presumably reflecting the consumption of long-chain n-3 fatty acids that might reduce blood pressure) in 759 fish consumers and 481 non-fish consumers. For each 1.3 microgram/L (interquartile distance) increase in mercury, the systolic blood pressure significantly increased by 1.83 mm Hg among non-fish consumers. A similar pattern was seen for diastolic blood pressure, although it was non-significant. Although an adverse effect of mercury exposure at background levels on blood pressure was not present overall, an adverse association was present among non-fish-consuming young and middle-aged women.

    Source: Vupputuri, S., M.P. Longnecker, J. L. Daniels, X. Guo , and D.P. Sandler. Environmental Research 2005 97 (2):195-200.

  • A biopsy procedure for determining filet and predicting whole-fish mercury concentration Mercury contamination of fish is a widespread occurrence; however, its regional evaluation is hindered by the reluctance of some state fisheries agencies to grant collection permits, problems in securing adequate freezer storage, and time to process whole, large fish or fillets. The authors evaluated mercury levels in 210 fillet biopsies from 65 sites in 12 western states relative to whole-body mercury concentrations in the same fish. They reported a highly significant relationship (r2 = 0.96) between biopsy and whole-fish mercury concentrations for 13 piscivorous and nonpiscivorous fish species. The authors concluded that compared to conventional fish-tissue sampling and analysis procedures for whole fish or filets, the biopsy procedure for mercury in fish tissue is nonlethal, less cumbersome, more likely to be permitted by fisheries agencies, and is a precise and accurate means for determining both fillet and whole-fish mercury concentrations.

    Source: Peterson S. A., J. Van Sickle, R. M. Hughes, J. A. Schacher, and S. F. Echols. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2005 48 (1): 99-107

  • n-3 Fatty acids consumed from fish and risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter: the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study Studies have shown that n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish may have antiarrhythmic properties. The authors evaluated the association between consumption of n-3 fatty acids from fish and risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter. As part of a cohort study of 47,949 participants (mean age: 56 years) in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study, the authors investigated the relation between the consumption of n-3 fatty acids from fish estimated from a detailed semiquantitative food questionnaire and risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter. Cohort participants were followed up in the Danish National Registry of Patients for the occurrence of atrial fibrillation or flutter and in the Danish Civil Registration System (vital status and emigration). The authors analyzed consumption of n-3 fatty acids from fish as sex-specific quintiles with the use of Cox proportional hazards models. During follow-up study (mean: 5.7 years), atrial fibrillation or flutter had developed in 556 subjects (374 men and 182 women). When the lowest quintile of n-3 fatty acids consumed from fish was used as a reference, the unadjusted hazard rate ratios in quintiles 2, 3, 4, and 5 were 0.93, 1.11, 1.10, and 1.44, respectively (P for trend = 0.001). Data on the frequency of fatty fish consumption did not alter these associations. Consumption of n-3 fatty acids from fish was not associated with a reduction in risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter. The authors could not exclude the possibility of residual confounding caused by a lack of information on intake of fish-oil tablets.

    Source: Frost L., and P. Vestergaard. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005 81 (1): 50-4

  • Improving data quality in community-based seafood consumption studies by use of two measurement tools A seafood consumption study was conducted in Glynn County, Georgia, to address concern about bioaccumulation of mercury from a nearby hazardous waste site in local residents who ate potentially contaminated seafood from the area. Seafood consumption was ascertained with two data collection tools: a questionnaire and a dietary diary. The use of two methods allowed for evaluation of the data to reveal discrepancies in responses between the two instruments, to improve reliability of the study results, and to reduce recall bias. Use of the questionnaire was relatively easy and provided a broad perspective on area consumption patterns. The dietary diary was more time-consuming, resulting in a reduction in participation rates. However, the diary also provided more detailed information with which to address community concerns about adverse health effects from mercury exposure. Overall, study participants were able to make broad generalizations about the amount of seafood in their diet, but were less accurate in estimating specific seafood consumption levels. Also, the level of concordance between the questionnaire and the dietary diary was low with respect to seafood consumption levels. For investigators evaluating community consumption patterns, the decision to use a questionnaire, a dietary diary, or both should be influenced by the study objectives, the level of community concern, number of study staff, and available resources.

    Source: Williamson D. M., E. Choury, R. Hilsdon, and B.Taylor Journal of Environmental Health 2004 67 (3): 9-13

  • Mercury contamination in human hair and fish from Cambodia: levels, specific accumulation and risk assessment Mercury residues in human hair and fish samples were analyzed from Phnom Penh, Kien Svay, Tomnup Rolork, and Batrong, Cambodia, collected in November (1999) and December (2000). The samples were analyzed to determine fish mercury residues and age- and sex-dependent accumulation in humans and to assess the intake of mercury via fish consumption. Mercury hair concentrations ranged from 0.54 to 190 mug/g dry wt. About 3 percent of the samples contained mercury concentrations exceeding the no observed adverse effects level (NOAEL) of the WHO (50mug/g) and the levels in some hair samples of women also exceeded the NOAEL (10mug/g) associated with fetus neurotoxicity. A positive correlation was observed between age and mercury hair levels of residents. Mercury concentrations in muscle of marine and freshwater fish ranged from <0.01 to 0.96mug/g wet wt. Mercury intake rates were estimated on the basis of the mercury content in fish and daily fish consumption. The authors suggested that fish is probably the main source of mercury for Cambodian people; however, extremely high mercury concentrations were observed in some individuals that could not be explained by mercury intake solely from fish consumption, indicating some other contamination sources.

    Source: Agusa, T., T. Kunito, H. Iwata and I. Monirith Environmental Pollution 2005 134 (1): 79-86.

  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in retail fish and shellfish samples purchased from Canadian markets PBDE residues in several fish and shellfish samples were used to provide data for dietary exposure and risk assessments. Fish and shellfish retail samples (n = 122) were purchased in 3 Canadian cities during the winter of 2002 and analyzed for a total of 18 PBDE congeners. Samples (salmon, trout, tilapia, Arctic char, mussels, oysters, shrimp, and crab) represented the range of fish and shellfish commercially available to Canadian consumers at the time of purchase. Trout and salmon (geometric mean ?PBDE = 1600 and 1500 pg/g, wet wt., respectively) contained markedly higher amounts of PBDE than the mussel, tilapia, and shrimp groups (geometric mean ?PBDE = 260, 180 and 48 pg/g, wet wt., respectively). These differences in ?PBDE levels among fish and shellfish products were partly a result of differences in lipid content among the samples. Mean ?PBDE concentrations in domestic samples were markedly greater than in imported samples, possibly reflecting global PBDE distribution. These concentration differences will result in variations in dietary exposure to PBDE, when assorted fish and shellfish items from various origins are consumed.

    Source: Tittlemier, S. A.; Forsyth, D.; Breakell, K.; Verigin, V.; Ryan, J. J.; Hayward, S. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2004 52 (25): 7740-7745.


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