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Water: News

Newsletter - May 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

  • Illinois Lists Contaminated Fish Sites

    On April 7, 2004, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued its annual list of fish consumption advisories for state waters. The waterbodies new to the list include: Arrowhead Lake in Cook County, Devil's Kitchen Lake in Williamson County, Kickapoo Creek near Peoria, Salt Creek in the Des Plaines River Basin, and Big Muddy River between Rend Lake and state Route 149. The department recommends people limit how often they eat fish from lakes and rivers that contain higher-than-normal amounts of pesticides and chemicals. Although state health officials say there is no known immediate threat from eating contaminated fish from these Illinois waterways, there are concerns about long-term, low-level exposure to chemicals.

    Source: Associated Press, April 7, 2004.

  • Contamination of central Montana stream raises questions

    Almost 100 local landowners have filed a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Monsanto after fish were found with elevated levels of PCBs in the vicinity of the Big Spring Trout Hatchery. Montana officials do not know whether flakes of PCB-contaminated paint, used on fish hatchery raceways in the 1960s and '70s, continue to wash out of the hatchery and into Big Spring Creek, contaminating fish in the creek. Sampling by Fish, Wildlife & Parks in 1986, '92 and '98 detected Aroclor 1254 at levels below 3 ppm. Public health warning came in 1995, when Montana's Department of Health and Human Services issued advisories recommended eating no more than one fish meal per month from Big Spring Creek. Although the advisory was reported in newspapers, neither Fish, Wildlife and Parks nor the state health agency posted a warning at fishing access sites, nor was the advisory published in the state's printed fishing regulations. In December 2003, based on additional fish sampling, Montana officials issued a no consumption advisory for 10 miles of the Big Spring Creek. The state has now posted fish advisory signs at all fishing access sites.

    Source: Associated Press, April 20, 2004

  • Arsenic Levels in American Fork River, UT Fish are Down

    Concentrations of arsenic in fish in the American Fork River have declined, prompting Forest Service officials to rescind a 2001 fish-consumption advisory. In 1999, the Forest Service analyzed fish tissue samples and high concentration of metals were detected in the fish, and arsenic levels were high enough to make the fish unsafe for human consumption. Lead concentrations are also a problem in the river, but did not result in issuance of an advisory. In 2002, 30 fish were collected for testing and arsenic levels in the fish were found to be at 5 percent, not the 10 percent expected. Although part of the American Fork River has been removed from the Impaired Rivers List, Trout Unlimited continues to work to improve water quality by cleaning up abandoned mines in the canyon. The Forest Service finished an $800,000 remediation project on five mine sites in the canyon, but all were on government-owned land. Trout Unlimited is working to bring private property owners together to clean up three major sites.

    Source: Associated Press, Apr. 2, 2004

  • Oregon Fish Samples Still Show Mercury

    Fish caught on the Willamette River still contain high mercury concentrations as shown by new tissue samples which detected about the same levels detected in previous years. Bass, pike minnow and suckers collected in the Willamette River in 2003 contained elevated levels of mercury, some well above the threshold established for issuing human health advisories. Oregon DEQ tests of 10 largemouth bass caught last summer at the Cottage Grove reservoir revealed a mean mercury concentration of 1.63 ppm - far above the 0.35 ppm threshold for state fish consumption advisories. The nearby Black Butte mercury mine, which operated until 1969, is thought to be a source of the higher mercury concentrations at Cottage Grove. Bass tested at Dorena Reservoir showed mean mercury levels of 0.64 ppm and bass tested from 6 locations on the Willamette River mainstem showed mean mercury levels of 0.28 pppm. Northern pike minnow from the Willamette also tested higher than health standards allow, at 0.71 ppm.

    Source: Associated Press, April 01, 2004


Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • Methylmercury concentrations found in wild and farm-raised paddlefish

    Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), collected from 4 sites in Kentucky (Ohio River, Lake Cumberland and 2 aquaculture sources including a private reservoir and catfish ponds), were sampled for methylmercury concentrations in their tissues. Paddlefish from all four sites were found to have methylmercury residues below the 1 ppm FDA-mandated action limit for seafoods. Using the EPA reference dose for methylmercury however, only paddlefish from the Ohio River exceeded the reference dose for unrestricted consumption. Some individual paddlefish from the Ohio River and Lake Cumberland had higher than average methylmercury levels. In contrast, aquacultured paddlefish typically had low concentrations of methylmercury. The authors reported a direct relationship between fish age and methylmercury concentration; bigger (older) paddlefish had higher methymercury concentrations in their tissues.

    Source: Dasgupta,S., R.J. Onders, D.T. Gunderson, and S.D. Mims. 2004. Journal of Food Science. 69(2): 122-125.

  • Childhood urine mercury excretion: dental amalgam and fish consumption as exposure factors

    The authors investigated effects of dental amalgam fillings and fish consumption on urine mercury level (UHg), in children aged 4-8 years old. In the study of 60 children, the authors found that children with amalgam fillings had significantly higher UHg levels than children without amalgams (geometric mean = 1.412 ppm versus 0.436 ppm), respectively. Subjects with higher fish consumption also had significantly higher UHgs. Univariate analyses showed evidence of an association between elevated UHg level and age, short height, and low body weight in children with amalgam chewing surfaces. The authors also found a negative correlation between urine mercury and age, height, and weight. Results of a multiple logistic regression model showed that the presence of amalgam fillings leads to increased odds of high UHg in children, even after adjusting for high fish consumption and height.

    Source: Levy, M., S. Schwartz, M. Dijak, J.P. Weber, R. Tardif, and E. Rouah. 2004. Environmental Research 94(3): 283-90.

  • Effects of cooking on radiocesium in fish from the Savannah River: Exposure differences for the public

    Health risk from fish consumption is normally computed on the basis of contaminant concentrations in fish tissue, meal frequency, and meal size, yet cooking practices may also affect risk. The authors studied the effect of deep-frying on radiocesium (137Cs) levels and risk to people fishing long the Savannah River. Both South Carolina and Georgia have issued fish advisories for the Savannah River, based partly on 137Cs. 137Cs levels were significantly higher in cooked fish compared to raw fish (wet weight basis). Mean 137Cs concentrations were 0.61 pCi/g in raw fish, 0.81 pCi/g in cooked-breaded, and 0.99 pCi/g in cooked-unbreaded fish. Deep-frying with and without breading resulted in a weight loss of 25 and 39%, while 137Cs levels increased by 32 and 62%, respectively. The authors concluded that the differences were due primarily to weight loss during cooking. However, the data suggest that risk assessments should be based on the cooked portion size for contaminant analysis, rather than an uncooked portion or the risk from 137Cs in fish will be underestimated. People are likely to estimate the amounts of fish they eat based on a meal size of the cooked portion, while risk assessors determine 137Cs levels in raw fish. A conversion factor of at least two for 137Cs during cooking is reasonable and conservative, given the variability in 137Cs concentrations. Data also suggests that dietary surveys should specifically ask about portion size before or after cooking and state which was used in the risk methods.

    Source: Burger, J., K.F. Gaines, C.S. Boring, J. Snodgrass, W.L. Stephens, and M. Gochfeld. 2004. Archive of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 46(2): 231-5.

  • Influences on mercury bioaccumulation factors for the Savannah River

    Mercury TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads) are a regulatory instrument designed to reduce the amount of mercury entering a waterbody and ultimately to regulate the bioaccumulation of mercury in fish. TMDLs are based on a bioaccumulation factor (BAF), which is the ratio of methylmercury in fish to dissolved methylmercury in water. Chemical analysis of fish tissue and methylmercury in water samples collected at several sites and over several seasons in a 118-km reach of the Savannah River showed that species-specific BAFs varied by factors of 3-8. The authors suggest that factors contributing to BAF variability were location, habitat, and season-related differences in fish muscle tissue mercury concentrations and seasonal differences in water methylmercury concentrations. Overall average BAFs were 3.7 x 10(6) for largemouth bass, 1.4 x 10(6) for sunfishes, and 2.5 X 10(6) for white catfish. Determination of representative BAFs for mercury in fish from large rivers requires sampling large and approximately equal numbers of fish and water samples over a seasonal cycle from the entire area and all habitats to be represented by the TMDL.

    Source: Paller, M. H., J.A. Bowers, J.W. Littrell, and A.V. Guanlao. 2004. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 46(2): 236-43.

  • Increasing levels and biomagnification of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Antarctic biota

    Antarctic food web organisms (krill, cephalopod, fish, penguin, seal) from Elephant Island and the Weddell Sea were analysed for the most persistent organochlorine pesticides. Due to sorption of these compounds to sinking particles and accumulation in sediments, two benthic fish species (Gobionotothen gibberifrons and Chaenocephalus aceratus) feeding on benthic invertebrates and fish exhibited significantly increasing concentrations within a decade (1987-1996), while a benthopelagic species (Champsocephalus gunnari)feeding on krill did not. In the pelagic food chain, lipid normalized chemical contaminant concentrations of all compounds tested increased from Antarctic krill to fish proving that biomagnification of highly lipophilic pollutants occurs in the aquatic food chain. As top predators Weddell and southern elephant seals (Leptonychotes weddellii, and Mirounga leonina) biomagnified the POPs relative to krill 30-160 fold with the exception of hexachlorobenzene, the levels of which were lower than in fish.

    Source: Goerke, H., K. Weber, H. Bornemann, S. Ramdohr, and J. Plotz. 2004. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48(3-4): 295-302.

  • Fish consumption, mercury exposure, and heart diseases

    There is increasing concern regarding methylmercury exposure in populations that consume large amounts of fish. This situation poses a dilemma for those who choose to consume fish for its beneficial effects on heart disease risk. Recent evidence suggests that high mercury content in fish may diminish the cardioprotective effect of fish consumption. The authors review the current knowledge of Hg toxicity on the heart and evaluate epidemiological evidence available to date.

    Source: Chan H. M. and G.M. Egeland. 2004. Nutrition Review 62(2): 68-72.

  • A comparison of organic contaminants in two high Arctic lake ecosystems, Bjornoya (Bear Island), Norway

    Two high Arctic lakes (Lake Ellasjoen and Lake Oyangen) are located on the island Bjornoya in the Barents Sea. High concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), especially PCB and p,p'-DDE, were found in sediment and biota from Lake Ellasjoen, while levels were several times lower in Lake Oyangen. Stable isotope signatures (delta15N) in zooplankton and Arctic char collected from the lakes were also significantly different. Delta15N values were 6-10 per thousand higher in the organisms from Ellasjoen than from Oyangen. In both lakes, a statistically significant correlation was found between the levels of PCB and DDT, and delta15N values in organisms indicating enhanced bioaccumulation for higher trophic level lake organisms. Because these lakes are remote, (>500 km from any known point source), the presence of POPs is likely a result of long-range transport of contaminants to the area. The observed higher contaminant concentrations in the Ellasjoen ecosystem are attributed to two factors. Ellasjoen is located in the southern, mountainous region of Bjornoya and it is likely that this area receives more precipitation, and thereby more airborne contaminants, than the flatter areas around Oyangen and higher delta15N-levels in organisms from Ellasjoen indicate the input of guano from seabirds using the lake as a resting area as an additional source of POPs to Ellasjoen.

    Source: Evenset, A., G. N. Christensen, T. Skotvold, E. Fjeld, M. Schlabach, E. Wartena, and D. Gregor. 2004. Science of the Total Environment 318(1-3): 125-41.

  • Contamination and biomethylation of organotin compounds in pearl/fish culture areas in Japan

    Uwakai, Japan is famous for its pearl and yellowtail fish culture. Recently, pearl culture farming has suffered from low production of pearls. Illegal use of organotin antifouling paints on fishing nets was reported and the authors undertook an investigation to examine the contamination status and fate of organotin compounds. Analyses were performed on 23 water, 10 sediment, and 8 pearl oyster tissue samples to determine tributyltin (TBT), triphenyltin (TPT), and their breakdown products (di- and mono compounds). Results suggest that TBT levels in water, sediment (dry weight), and biota (dry weight) ranged from 0.11 to 10.6 pptr, 0.35 to 2500 ppb, and 50.4 to 181 ppb, respectively. Triphenyltin in water, sediment and biota ranged from 0.009 to 0.108 pptr, non-detect to 12.7 ppb, and non-detect to 6.83 ppb, respectively. Although the TBT concentration in seawater is below the tentative assessment level of 10 pptr set by the Japanese Environment Agency, this concentrations may cause endocrine disruption/other effects in aquatic organisms. Octyltin compounds (mono-, di- and trioctyltin) were also quantified in seawater and sediment. Detection of dibutyldimethyltin (DBDMT) and tributylmonomethyltin (TBMMT) in sediment, and TBMMT in seawater suggests that biomethylation of anthropogenic tributyltins is a significant transformation pathway in coastal environments.

    Source: Ramaswamy, B. R. and H. Tao. 2004. Analytical Science 20(1): 45-53.

  • Bioaccumulation profiles of chemical contaminants in fish from the lower Willamette River, Portland Harbor, Oregon

    Twenty-five PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), 15 organochlorine (OC) pesticides, and mercury were determined in fish from the Willamette River in Oregon, including a Portland Harbor superfund site. Fish were collected during the summer of 2000 along a 20-mile stretch of the lower Willamette River. Concentrations of total PCBs (sum of 25 individually determined PCB congeners) and total DDTs (sum of p,p'-DDT, p,p'-DDE, and p,p'-DDD) in fish ranged from 14-530 and from 18-510 ppb-wet weight, respectively. Total PCBs concentrations at all sites exceeded US EPA fish advisory's screening values. Hexachlorobiphenyl congener 153 was the most abundant of the PCBs detected and p,p'-DDE was the most abundant OC pesticide detected. Low levels of dieldrin were detected in fish at all sites with the highest concentration at the superfund site (4.6 ppb wet weight), while other OC pesticides tested were near or below detection limits (2 ppb). Organic chemical contaminant concentrations were highest in fish from the superfund site and were lower further upriver. Smallmouth bass had the highest levels of OC compounds of three fish species examined. They also had the largest site-to-site variations whereas black crappie had little variation throughout the study area. Mercury levels in fish ranged from 13 to 520 ppb. Historical fish residue data are limited from the Portland Harbor superfund site, and data that are available are over a decade old, generally consisted of only a few fish (< or = 3) and analyses quantified only a few PCB congeners (< 3).

    Source: Sethajintanin, D., E. R. Johnson, B. R. Loper, and K. A. Anderson. 2004. Archives of Environmental Contamination Toxicology 46(1): 114-23.

  • Fish mercury is high but safely consumed in the diet of native Amazonians.

    Two important staple foods (cassava and fish) in the diet of native Amazonians contain neurotoxins (linamarin and monomethyl mercury, MMHg). These neurotoxins are public health issues in other parts of the world. Factors such as chemistry, environment, and human ecology determine the endemism of neuropathies caused by consumption of cassava and fish. Naturally occurring Hg in the waters of the Amazonian rain forest is methylated to MMHg by microorganisms and is bioconcentrated in the aquatic food chain. Despite high concentrations of naturally occurring neurotoxins in cassava (linamarin) and fish (MMHg), the authors suggest that daily consumption of these foods in large amounts over the course of a lifetime poses no health hazards for Amazonians.

    Source: Dorea, JG. 2004. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 57(3):248-56.

  • Fish from the Mississippi River Basin, 1995

    The author summarizes data from part of a larger investigation conducted in 1995-96, designed to assess the chemical contaminant exposures of fish in rivers of the Mississippi River Basin. Data are presented pertaining to concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, selenium, and zinc. Fish were sampled from 34 National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program stations and 12 National Water Quality Assessment Program sites, and tissue residue data were compared with previous findings. Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and black bass (Micropterus sp.) were targeted for collection, but other species were also included. Extensive metal concentration data are tabulated, and results are summarized individually for each metal. Metal concentrations were found to be lower in fish from the West Virginia reference site than from other locations in the Basin. Although accumulated metal differences among species were noted, overall only Se was found at concentrations that were troubling, with concentrations of Cd and Zn highest in carp.

    Source: Schmitt, C.J. 2004. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 90(1-3): 289-322.

  • Metal Levels in Tissues of Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhinchus) from Lake Okeechobee

    Gar are top-level predatory fish in Lake Okeechobee, FL and were collected from the northern, western, and southern areas of the lake by electroshock. Fish were analyzed for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury, and selenium in gonad, liver, and muscle tissue. Typically, muscle tissue contained the lowest metal concentrations, while liver had the highest. In females, the gonad contained significantly higher levels of Mn and Se, while livers contained significantly higher levels of Mn. In males, gonads contained significantly higher levels of Hg, while livers had higher levels of As and Se. Mercury and arsenic concentrations were significantly higher in fish sampled from the northern and southern area of the lake, respectively.

    Source: Burger, J., E.F. Orlando, M. Gochfeld, G.A. Binczik, and L. Guillette. 2004. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 90 (1-3): 187-201.


Meetings and Conferences

  • National Environmental Health Association Meeting

    May 9-12, 2004 in Anchorage, Alaska. Food Safety and Protection Conference and Exhibition. Visit the website for more information: www.neha.org/AEC/food.

  • 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 link]

  • 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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