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Water: News

Newsletter - July 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

  • Maryland officials update fish consumption advisories

    Maryland state officials recently released an update of the risk-based recommendations regarding consumption of recreationally-caught fish due to the presence of environmental contaminants. The highlights include a "Baywide" (Maryland) recommendation for "rockfish" (striped bass) in the Chesapeake Bay, and updates on the longstanding advisories in the Baltimore Harbor/Patapsco River watershed. Also, a number of recommendations for white perch and other species were released to fill in gaps for tidal areas where there was no previous information. All of the tidal updates were due to PCBs. The updates were made possible due to increased monitoring by the Department, and also necessitated by changes in risk assessment procedures established in 2001. There is no indication that PCB concentrations have increased in the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries.

    All recreationally caught sport fish in Maryland's freshwater systems are still subject to risk-based consumption recommendations due to methylmercury. In addition, the State modified its expression of consumption recommendations to meals per year, where previously it was 1,2,4, or 8 meals per month, as well as 4-11 meals per year. The Department also recommends spacing meals of recreationally-caught fish evenly over time. One meal is considered to be 8 oz (one half pound) of fish for the general population. Women of childbearing age and young children to age 6 have recommendations of 6 oz and 3 oz meals sizes, respectively. The state's fish consumption advisories apply only to recreationally caught fish and do not apply to fish raised in commercial fish hatcheries or bought in stores or restaurants. The State also provided the new Joint EPA-FDA recommendations for sensitive populations via a new brochure. The Maryland Department of the Environment web site includes a complete list of waters where recommendations for safer consumption have been provided. In addition, the website also contains several brochures and outreach products used by the Department for public education.

    Source: Maryland Department of the Environment

  • Michigan stops printing fish advisories

    The Michigan Department of Community Health has been forced to stop printing fish advisory guides for 2004 because of budgetary cuts. Michigan's Legislature cut $350,000 in funding for the fish advisory program two years ago and since then, the department has borrowed from other areas of its budget to keep the program running. Declining revenues mean that only limited quantities of brochures can be distributed. Some fishers say they are concerned about the end of advisories. While some contaminant levels, particularly in the Great Lakes, have declined overall during the last 30 years, mercury concentrations are increasing in some Great Lake areas.

    Source: The Associated Press. State stops printing fish advisories. June 7, 2004, 2:49 PM


Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • Consideration of cultural and lifestyle factors in defining susceptible populations for environmental disease

    The authors examine cultural and lifestyle factors that help define potentially susceptible populations in two groups, Asian and Pacific Islanders (API) and members of Tribal Nations in the Pacific Northwest region of the US and Western Canada. These fisher groups, which may consume 10 times more fish and shellfish than the average US consumers, have special dietary practices that can lead to significant exposures to persistent pollutants in fish and shellfish. Mechanisms of toxicity of these pollutants are also important. The authors provide an example using the dioxin-like PCBs, different risk assessment approaches and analytical sensitivity needed to quantitatively evaluate risk for different consumption groups. The authors' study demonstrates that regulatory agencies evaluation of fish consumption for members of the general US populations do not always adequately consider unique consumption and cooking practices of these two high fish consumption groups. It is important for appropriate exposure and risk assessments for risk assessors to partner with the affected communities. This partnering also empowers proactive action by communities to evaluate the risks and many benefits of fish and shellfish consumption and develop risk management strategies tailored for their specific communities.

    Source: Judd, N.L., W. C. Griffith, and E. M. Faustman. 2004. Consideration of cultural and lifestyle factors in defining susceptible populations for environmental disease. Toxicology 198 (1-3): 121-133.

  • Chemical risks associated with consumption of shellfish from the St. Lawrence River estuary

    The authors conducted a study to assess the chemical risks associated with consumption of shellfish harvested on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River's lower estuary. A survey was conducted of 162 recreational harvesters, and shellfish were collected for chemical contaminant analysis. Shellfish were evaluated for 10 metals, 22 PAHs, 14 PCBs, and 10 chlorinated pesticides. The authors also evaluated the cancer and noncancer risks for four consumption scenarios based on survey results and other published results. Soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria) were the most consumed shellfish species. Of the 56 selected contaminants, 36 were detected in the 23 homogenates of soft-shell clam meat. None of the contaminants found in the clams exceeded the main exposure limit recommendations proposed to prevent noncancer effects. However, several limits must be considered before drawing conclusions about the safety of shellfish consumption regarding this noncancer end point. In addition, inorganic arsenic and PCBs were present at sufficient levels to lead to cancer risks exceeding the level typically considered acceptable for environmental exposure (10-4 to 10-6) in each of the four scenarios, even for the lowest observed consumption scenario of 15 clam meals per year.

    Source: Gagnon, F., T. Tremblay, J. Rouette, and J. F. Cartier. 2004. Chemical risks associated with consumption of shellfish harvested on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River's lower estuary. Environmental Health Perspectives 112(8): 883-888.

  • Pesticides and PCBs in sediments and fish from the Salton Sea, California

    The authors conducted this study to determine organochlorine and organophosphorous pesticides, as well as PCB concentrations in sediments and fish tissues in the Salton Sea and evaluate the ecological risk of these contaminants. Sediment samples were collected during 2000-2001 and fish tissues (Tilapia mossambique, Cynoscion xanthulu) were collected in May 2001. Fish and sediment samples were analyzed for 12 chlorinated pesticides, 6 organophosphorus pesticides, and 55 PCB congeners. Total DDT and total PCB concentrations in sediments ranged from 10-40 and 116-304 ppb (dry wt), respectively. DDT/DDD ratios in sediments and fish tissues in the northern Sea indicated recent DDT exposure. Lindane, dieldrin, DDE and total PCB concentrations detected in sediments exceeded probable effect levels established for freshwater ecosystems, and DDE and total PCB concentrations were higher than effect range-median (ER-M) values developed for marine and estuarine sediments. Total DDT fish tissue levels were higher than threshold concentrations for the protection of wildlife consumers of aquatic biota. DDE fish muscle concentrations were above the 50 ppb concentration threshold for the protection of predatory birds. Dimethoate, diazinon, malathion, chlorpyrifos, disulfoton varied from < or = 0.15-9.5 ppb (dry wt) in sediments and from < or = 0.1-80.3 ppb (wet wt) in fish tissues. Disulfoton was found in relatively high concentrations (up to 80.3 ppb) in all organs from tilapia and corvina. Results show continued contamination of specific organochlorine compounds in sediments and resident fish species of the Salton Sea.

    Source: Sapozhnikova, Y., O. Bawardi, and D. Schlenk. 2004. Pesticides and PCBs in sediments and fish from the Salton Sea, California. Chemosphere 55(6): 797-809.

  • Group says levels of mercury in Columbus rain are higher than EPA standard

    Mercury levels of Columbus, OH rain are more than 5 times the EPA's safety standard, according to a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report. Contact with or drinking water with these levels of mercury is safe, but eating fish that live in contaminated waters can be unhealthy. Mercury accumulates in fish over time, leading to concentrations in fish tissues that can harm people. The NWF report said the results were consistent with an earlier study of Cleveland rain that found mercury levels 8 times higher than the EPA's standard for safe surface water. The NWF is asking the EPA to strengthen a proposal to reduce mercury emissions, which are produced primarily by coal-burning power plants. Seven years ago, the state warned people to eat no more than 1 meal/week of fish caught in Ohio, citing high mercury levels. In December 2003, a more restrictive warning was issued recommending that women of childbearing age and young children eat only 1 meal of fish/month from 15 Ohio rivers and lakes.

    Source: The Associated Press. Group says levels of mercury in Columbus rain are higher than EPA standard. Posted on Tue, Jun. 22, 2004.

  • California sues food companies over mercury levels in canned tuna

    California's attorney general sued 3 of the US's biggest canned tuna companies, alleging these companies failed to warn consumers of excessive mercury in their products. The named defendants are Tri-Union Seafoods, maker of Chicken of the Sea; Del Monte, maker of Starkist, and Bumble Bee Seafoods, maker of Bumble Bee. The State's Attorney General office reported that results of tests of the companies' albacore and light tuna products found mercury at levels that, under state regulations, require warnings to be given to consumers. Besides civil penalties, the lawsuit seeks to stop these companies from selling tuna products in the state unless they provide warning labels or signs posted in grocery aisles. The U.S. Tuna Foundation disagrees with the lawsuit and plans to demonstrate in court that its products are safe. The Tuna Foundation also believes that the lawsuit is not grounded in science and will needlessly scare consumers from eating affordable high protein food products that are healthy for them.

    Source: Associated Press. California sues food companies over mercury levels in canned tuna. Mon Jun 21,10:33 PM ET.

  • PAHs in fish from remote and high mountain lakes in Europe and Greenland

    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were analyzed in liver of 57 individual trout distributed among 7 high mountain European lakes and 1 remote Greenland lake. In all study sites, very similar distribution patterns were observed in which phenanthrene predominated and fluoranthene and pyrene were the second major compounds. These patterns were similar to those observed in the dissolved fraction of lake waters studied in three of the lakes. The concentration range of PAH in fish liver tissue showed only a 5-fold variation, considerably smaller than the range more than 2 orders of magnitude of sedimentary PAH levels of these lakes. No correlation between PAH content (both total PAHs and individual compounds) in sediments and fish liver has been found. However, lake site is the main statistically significant factor of variability between PAH concentrations in fish liver. Differences in fish species explain significant differences in liver tissue of some PAHs. Within lake, condition factor and liver levels are inversely correlated. Female fish display lower mean concentrations than male in all lakes although the difference is not significant. No correlation between fish age and PAH content was observed.

    Source: Vives, I., J.O. Grimalt, P. Fernandez, and B. Rosseland. 2004. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in fish from remote and high mountain lakes in Europe and Greenland. Science of the Total Environment 324(1-3): 67-77.

  • Influence of altitude and age in the accumulation of organochlorine compounds in fish from high mountain lakes

    Analysis of hexachlorobenzene, hexachlorocyclohexanes, PCBs, and DDT in muscle of fish from high mountain lakes shows that a proportion of their concentration variance depends on fish age and lake altitude. The magnitude of this share corresponds linearly with the log-transformed vapor pressure (Vp) of the organochlorine compounds (OC). Thus, the OC distributions with Vp < 10(-2.5) Pa are mostly determined by these two variables. Altitude gradients mainly respond to temperature differences, involving concentration increases of 25-150 times between 8.7 and -2.3 degrees C. Fish age effect encompasses concentration increments of 2.4-7.8 for average lake differences between 2 and 13 yr. However, since no correlation between fish age and lake altitude is observed, both effects are independent. Fish liver concentrations exhibit the same pattern, but the correlations are only significant for age, suggesting that the temperature trend is more related to long-term accumulation than episodic intake. In addition, the temperature effect is independent of compound origin. The sites situated at highest altitude, those most distant from possible ground pollution sources, are the most polluted. The results can be explained by condensation effects such as those described for the latitudinal trends that support the global distillation theory. In high altitude lakes, however, a temperature-dependent amplification mechanism, probably related to low metabolism and respiration at low temperatures, enhances OC accumulation in fish beyond the increases predicted from theoretical condensation and solubilization enthalpies.

    Source: Vives, I., J.O. Grimalt, J. Catalan, B.O.Rosseland, and R.W. Battarbee. 2004. Influence of altitude and age in the accumulation of organochlorine compounds in fish from high mountain lakes. Environmental Science and Technology 38(3): 690-698

  • Cadmium in oysters and scallops: the BC experience

    Human health effects of non-occupational lifetime exposure to cadmium (Cd) are of increasing concern worldwide. The author presents an overview of the problem and provides some context for the current situation in coastal British Columbia, Canada, which arose in 1999 from the discovery of Cd contamination in farmed Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas). Efforts are underway to identify Cd sources and the geographical and seasonal variation of these Cd residues. The recent application by the European Community of a 1 ppm Cd (wet weight) import limit to bivalve molluscs and the current deliberation by CODEX to adopt the same standard, pose significant economic threats to the shellfish export trade in the Pacific Northwest (British Columbia, Washington and Alaska). These are areas where natural oceanographic conditions and coastal geology contribute to Cd levels that usually exceed the 1 ppm limit. Human health aspects of chronic Cd exposure comprise an active field of study and the validity of existing Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake is being questioned. Cd bioavailability from oyster and scallop tissues is unknown and requires study. These uncertainties has ramifications for the industry including damaging the public perception of the safety of the cultured shellfish product, losing export markets and undermining as the industry is being encouraged by both the Province of British Columbia and Federal aquaculture initiatives. The author believes there is an urgent need to redefine the "safe" limit of lifetime Cd intake from all sources, and determine bioavailability, specifically from bivalve molluscs. This information would facilitate the definition of a scientifically defensible Cd limits by CODEX.

    Source: Kruzynski, G. M. 2004. Cadmium in oysters and scallops: the BC experience.Toxicol Lett 148 (3): 159-69.

  • Learning as an objective within a structured risk management decision process

    Social learning through adaptive management holds the promise of providing the basis for better risk management over time. Yet the experience with fostering social learning through adaptive management initiatives has been mixed and may benefit from practical guidance for better implementation. The authors outline a straightforward approach for fostering improved risk management decisions: specifying learning for current and future decisions as one of several explicit objectives, and drawing on notions of applied decision analysis. The paper first outlines a view of risk management as a policy-analytic decision process involving stakeholders. It then develops the concept of the value of learning, which broadens the more familiar notion of the value of information. The authors describe the concepts and steps needed to treat learning as an explicit objective in a policy decision and outline the advantages of viewing learning as an objective, including potential benefits from the viewpoint of stakeholders, the institutions involved, and for the decision process itself. Finally, the author provide a case-study example concerning water use for fisheries and hydroelectric power in British Columbia, Canada to illustrate the development of learning as an objective in an applied risk-management context.

    Source: McDaniels, T. L. and R. Gregory. 2004. Learning as an objective within a structured risk management decision process. Environ Science and Technology 38(7): 1921-1926.

  • Fish consumption, mercury exposure, and heart diseases

    Increasing concern exists associated with methylmercury exposure in populations that consume large amounts of fish. This situation poses a dilemma for those who choose to eat fish for its beneficial effects on heart disease risk. Recent scientific evidence suggests that high mercury content in some fish may diminish the protective effects of fish intake on cardiac health. The authors explore the current state of knowledge on mercury toxicity on the heart and evaluate epidemiological evidence to date.

    Source: Chan, H. M. and G.M. Egeland. 2004. Fish consumption, mercury exposure, and heart diseases. Nutr Rev 62(2): 68-72.


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. [BROKEN]

  • 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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