Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Water: News

Newsletter - November 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

  • Dangerous amount of mercury found in ducks SALT LAKE CITY (AP)-The State departments of Health and of Environmental Quality, the Division of Wildlife Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) jointly issued a no-consumption advisory Thursday for two duck species found in Utah estuarine ecosystems. Utah duck hunters are being warned not to eat northern shovelers or common goldeneyes that feed in Great Salt Lake marshes because tests of their flesh show toxic levels of mercury. The U.S. Environmental (U.S. EPA) standard for edible tissue is the same for fish as for ducks. Health Department toxicologist Wayne Ball said that due to the benefits of consuming fish as part of a balanced diet, toxicologists normally try to calculate what amount of fish is safe for human consumption. But with ducks, the levels of mercury in duck tissue "were high enough that there's really no safe level of consumption," Ball said.
    • Source: The Daily Herald, page B8, October 02, 2005, 12:00 AM. Copyright © 2005 Associated Press.

Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • Maternal fish consumption, hair mercury, and infant cognition in a U.S. cohort. Although fish and other seafood are known to contain small amounts of organic mercury, they also contain beneficial nutrients, such as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. To study whether maternal fish consumption during pregnancy harms or benefits fetal brain development, the authors examined associations of maternal fish intake during pregnancy and assessed maternal hair mercury levels at delivery with infant cognition. The study was conducted among 135 mother-infant pairs as part of Project Viva-a prospective U.S. pregnancy and child cohort study. Infant cognition was assessed by using the percent novelty preference on visual recognition memory (VRM) testing at 6 months of age. Participant mothers consumed a mean of 1.2 fish servings per week during the second trimester, and mean maternal hair mercury concentration was 0.55 ppm, with 10% of samples greater than 1.2 ppm. The average VRM score was 59.8. After adjustments for participant characteristics using linear regression, higher fish intake was associated with higher infant cognition and this association strengthened after adjustment for hair mercury level. For each additional weekly serving of fish, the offspring VRM score was 4.0 points higher. However, an increase of 1 ppm in mercury (measured in human hair) was associated with a decrease in VRM score of 7.5 (95% CI, -13.7 to -1.2) points. VRM scores were highest among infants of women who ate more than two fish servings per week, but had mercury hair levels less than or equal to 1.2 ppm. Increased fish consumption during pregnancy was associated with better infant cognition; however, higher mercury levels were associated with lower cognition. The authors believe that women should continue to eat fish during pregnancy, but choose fish with lower mercury contamination.
    • Source: Oken, E., R.O. Wright, K.P. Kleinman, D. Bellinger, C.J. Amarasiriwardena, H.Hu, J.W. Rich-Edwards, and M.W. Gillman. 2005. Environmental Health Perspectives 113(10):1376-80.
  • Fish consumption and advisory awareness in the Great Lakes Basin. Between June 2001 and June 2002, the authors conducted a population-based, random digit-dial telephone survey of adults residing in Great Lakes states to assess consumption of commercial and sport-caught fish and awareness of state-issued fish advisories for Great Lakes fish. More than 61 million adults live in the eight U.S. states bordering the Great Lakes that were surveyed. Based on survey results, approximately 84% of the adults living in these Great Lakes states include fish in their diets, and 7% (4.2 million adults) consume fish caught from the Great Lakes. The percentage of the population that had eaten sport-caught fish (from any source) varied regionally, but was highest in residents of Minnesota (44%) and Wisconsin (39%). Great Lakes sport-fish consumption was highest among residents of Michigan (16%) and Ohio (12%). Of those residents who consumed Great Lakes fish, awareness of fish advisories varied by gender and race and was lowest among black residents (15%) and women (30%). However, about 70% of those who ate Great Lakes sport-caught fish twice a month or more (509,000 adults across all eight states) were aware of the advisories. The authors believe that exposure to persistent contaminants via Great Lakes fish is likely limited to a relatively small subpopulation of avid sport-fish consumers. The survey results also show the importance of fish advisories for commercial fish because an estimated 2.9 million adults living in these states consume more than 104 fish meals per year; therefore, they are potentially at risk of exceeding the reference doses for methylmercury, PCBs, and other contaminants.
    • Source: Imm, P., L. Knobeloch, and H.A. Anderson. 2005. Environmental Health Perspectives 113(10):1325-9.
  • Mercury contamination in farmed fish setup on former garimpo-mining areas in the Northern Mato Grosso State, Amazonian region, Brazil. From 1980 to 1995, garimpo gold-mining activities have released around 2,500 tons of mercury into the Brazilian Amazonian environment. Mato Grosso State, an important gold-mining and trading area during the Amazonian gold rush, is now at a critical point in its economic future. Today, gold mining is only of minor importance to the Mato Grosso State economy, and local communities are looking for economic alternatives for the future. One alternative is cooperative fish farming; therefore, some fish-farming projects are using areas contaminated by the former garimpo activities, with the remaining mercury still posing risks, especially through its bioaccumulation in fish. The authors evaluated levels of mercury contamination in two fish-farming areas, Paranaita and Alta Floresta, with and without a history of past gold-mining activity, respectively. Data were collected on the mercury levels in fish of different trophic levels, sizes, and weights, as well as on the physical and chemical parameters of the water. Analysis of preliminary data has shown no significant difference between these two fish-farming areas relative to mercury contamination levels in fish.
    • Source: Farias, R.A., S. Hacon, R.C. Campos, and R. Argento. 2005. Science of the Total Environment 348(1-3):128-34.
  • Uptake, absorption efficiency, and elimination of DDT in marine phytoplankton, copepods, and fish. Uptake, absorption efficiency, and elimination of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) were measured in marine phytoplankton, copepods (Acartia erythraea), and a fish (mangrove snapper). The DDT uptake rate constant from water decreased with increasing trophic level. Dietary absorption efficiency (AE) of DDT was 10%-29% in copepods and 72%-99% in fish. Food DDT concentration did not significantly affect the AEs of DDT, but the AEs varied considerably among the different food diets. DDT elimination rate constants by copepods were comparable following uptake of DDT from diet and from water, and DDT elimination from the fish was extremely low. Uptake of DDT from both water and the diet are equally important for DDT accumulation in copepods. In contrast, for fish, exposure in water is a more significant route than dietary intake.
    • Source: Wang, X. ,and W.X. Wang. 2005. Environmental Pollution 136(3):453-64.
  • The production of very-long-chain PUFA biosynthesis in transgenic plants towards a sustainable source of fish oils. Considerable evidence exists about the importance of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in human health. Marine fish stocks that serve as the primary sources of these fatty acids are threatened by continued over-exploitation; therefore, the authors believe there is an urgent need to provide a sustainable alternative source of the n-3 long-chain PUFA found in these marine fish oils. Recently, it has been shown that these important fatty acids can be synthesized using transgenic, genetically engineered plants. The authors discuss the various approaches taken to realize this outcome, as well as the prospects of using these plants to provide a sustainable resource of these fatty acids in the future.
    • Source: Napier, J.A., and O. Sayanova. 2005. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 64(3):387-93.
  • Human pharmaceuticals in U.S. surface waters: A human health risk assessment. Detection of pharmaceuticals at low concentrations in rivers and streams, drinking water, and groundwater has raised questions as to whether these levels affect human health. The authors of this study present human health risk assessments for 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and/or their metabolites, representing 14 different drug classes for which environmental data are available in the United States. Acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) were derived using data available for these APIs. Resulting ADIs are designed to protect potentially exposed populations, including sensitive subpopulations. The authors then use the ADIs to estimate no effect concentrations (PNECs) for two sources of human exposure: drinking water and fish consumption. The authors compared the PNECs to measured environmental concentrations (MECs) from the published literature that had been maximized using predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) generated using the PhATE model. The PhATE model uses conservative assumptions of low river flow and no depletion (i.e., no metabolism, no removal during wastewater or drinking water treatment, and no instream depletion ratios). The authors concluded that for all 26 compounds, these low ratios (PEC to PNEC) indicate that no significant human health risk exists from the trace concentrations of APIs in surface water and drinking water.
    • Source: Schwab, B.W., E.P. Hayes, J.M. Fiori, F.J. Mastrocco, N.M. Roden, D. Cragin, R.D. Meyerhoff, V.J. D'Aco, and P.D. Anderson. 2005. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 42(3):296-312.
  • Effect of omega-3 fatty acid-containing phospholipids on blood catecholamine concentrations in healthy volunteers: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. The authors previously reported that administration of fish oil rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) increased the plasma ratio of epinephrine to norepinephrine (NE) at rest in young adults under chronic stress, and that this effect was achieved primarily through depression of NE. Few reports have documented the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA on blood catecholamine levels in healthy humans. The authors performed another study to test their effect on catecholamines with healthy subjects under no chronic stress. The study group included 21 healthy young adults (15 men and 6 women) randomly assigned to an omega-3 group (n = 9) or a control group (n = 12) in a double-blind manner. Shellfish-derived lipids (20 capsules/day) containing 762 milligrams (mg) of EPA plus DHA per day were administered to the omega-3 group for 60 days; the control group took the same amount of placebo capsules. Fasting blood samples after a 30-minute rest were obtained with a catheter in a forearm vein at the start and the end of the study for catecholamine measurements. The authors found that EPA in red blood cells, not DHA concentrations, significantly increased in the omega-3 group compared with the control group. Plasma NE levels were significantly decreased in the omega-3 group (from 1.49 nmol/L to 1.05 nmol/L) compared with the control group (from 1.12 nmol/L to 1.39 nmol/L). This study showed that EPA plus DHA supplements lowered plasma NE levels in normal volunteers even at the low dose of 762 mg of EPA plus DHA per day.
    • Source: Hamazaki, K., M. Itomura, M. Huan, H. Nishizawa, M. Tanouchi, S. Watanabe, T. Hamazaki, K. Terasawa, and K. Yazawa. 2005. Nutrition 21(6):705-10.
  • Evaluation of the relationships between biochemical endpoints of PAH exposure and physiological endpoints of reproduction in male California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) exposed to sediments from a natural oil seep. Most studies on the fate and effects of petroleum have focused on urbanized or anthropogenic sources of inputs, but few have examined the effects of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) derived from natural seeps. The authors studies Coal Oil Point (COP), a natural oil seep off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA, to evaluate the PAH effects derived from COP on marine fish. Hatchery-reared California halibut were exposed for 30 days to seven different dilutions of sediments collected from COP. The authors evaluated hepatic cytochrome P450 1A (CYP1A), biliary fluorescent aromatic compounds (FACs), gonadal somatic indices, and plasma steroid concentrations. The authors also analyzed 16 EPA-priority PAHs in each sediment dilution. They found that biochemical responses were not amenable to dose-response relationships and were less sensitive than literature values established for the same indicators following exposure to urbanized PAHs. Resulting insensitivity of these biochemical parameters may be unique for natural petroleum exposures due to the higher concentration of lower molecular-weight PAHs.
    • Source: Seruto, C., Y. Sapozhnikova, and D. Schlenk. 2005. Marine Environmental Research 60(4):454-65.
  • Concentrations of persistent organochlorine contaminants in bowhead whale tissues and other biota from northern Alaska: Implications for human exposure from a subsistence diet. From 1997 to 1999, tissues from five individual bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetu) were collected during subsistence hunts at Barrow, AK, to measure levels of persistent organochlorine contaminants (OCs). The authors wanted to assess human exposure to OCs via bowhead whales and other biota, including fish, ringed seals (Phoca hispida), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), and beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), as part of a subsistence diet. OC levels in bowhead whale tissues were correlated with lipid content and were less than levels in other marine mammals tested, reflecting the lower trophic status of this whale. The relative proportions of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and concentrations of total chlordane (? Chlordane), DDT-related compounds (?DDT), and total PCBs were not statistically different among the tissues analyzed. Safe human-consumption rates of bowhead whale tissue and other marine biota were calculated based on World Health Organization (WHO) and Canadian daily intake guidelines. The most restrictive limits (mean) for daily consumption of bowhead and beluga whale were 302 grams (g) and 78 g for maktak and maktaaq (beluga whale epidermis and blubber), respectively. The authors believe that additional information about traditional/country foods consumed by Alaskan subsistence communities is needed to evaluate chronic exposure.
    • Source: Hoekstra, P.F., T. M. O'Hara, S.M. Backus, C. Hanns, and D.C. Muir 2005. Environmental Research 98(3):329-40.
  • Mercury contamination in human hair and fish from Cambodia: Levels, specific accumulation, and risk assessment. The authors measured mercury levels in human hair and fish samples from Phnom Penh, Kien Svay, Tomnup Rolork, and Batrong, Cambodia, collected in November 1999 and December 2000. Mercury concentrations in human hair ranged from 0.54 to 190 mug/g dry wt. Approximately 3% of all samples contained mercury levels exceeding the no observed adverse effects level (NOAEL) of WHO (50 ppm), and the levels in some women hair samples also exceeded the NOAEL (10 ppm) associated with fetus neurotoxicity. There was a positive correlation between age and mercury hair levels. Mercury levels in muscle of marine and freshwater fish from Cambodia ranged from <0.01 to 0.96 ppm wet wt. Mercury intake rates were estimated on the basis of daily fish consumption rates and the mercury content in fish. Three samples of marine fish, including sharp-tooth snapper and obtuse barracuda, and one sample of sharp-tooth snapper, exceeded the U.S. EPA and Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) guidelines, respectively. Using the guidelines to evaluate contaminant levels in fish, 9% and 3% were found to be hazardous for consumption at the ingestion rate of Cambodian people (32.6 g/day) based on U.S. EPA and JECFA guidelines, respectively. The authors believe that fish consumption is the major source of mercury for Cambodian people; however, the extremely high mercury levels observed in some individuals cannot be explained solely by fish consumption, indicating some other contamination sources for mercury in the Cambodian environment.
    • Source: Agusa, T., T. Kunito, H. Iwata, I. Monirith, T.S. Tana, A. Subramanian, and S. Tanabe. 2005. Environmental Pollution 134(1):79-86.
  • Total mercury concentrations in fillets of bluegill, redear sunfish, largemouth bass, and other fishes from Lake Natoma, Sacramento County, California. The authors conducted this study in Lake Natoma during September to October 2002 to verify preliminary findings of elevated total mercury concentrations in skinless fish filets. The authors also analyzed for total mercury concentrations in fish flesh. In August 2000, a previous investigation collected a small number of fish containing mercury concentrations that exceeded 0.30 ppm (wet weight), the U.S. EPA's tissue residue criterion. This study found that skinless filets of bluegill contained as much as 0.19 ppm mercury; redear sunfish contained as much as 0.39 ppm mercury; and largemouth bass contained as much as 0.86 ppm mercury. Maximum mercury levels in other fish species ranged from 0.097 ppm in rainbow trout to 0.56 ppm in white catfish. Altogether, 1 of 20 redear sunfish, 14 of 61 largemouth bass, 1 brown bullhead, 2 of 3 spotted bass, and 1 white catfish exceeded the U.S. EPA's fish tissue methylmercury residue criterion. The authors found that significant correlations between fish total length (TL), weight, and age, and total mercury concentration in filets were only observed for bluegill and largemouth bass.
    • Source: Saiki, M., B.A. Martin, T.W. May, and C.N. Alpers. 2005. California Fish and Game 91(3):193-206.
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers and Polychlorinated Biphenyls in a Marine Foodweb of Coastal Florida. Nine species of marine fish and two species of marine mammals (dolphins) collected from Florida coastal waters were analyzed for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to evaluate biomagnification factors (BMF) of these contaminants in a coastal foodweb. In addition, bottlenose dolphins and bull sharks collected from the Florida coast during the 1990s and the 2000s were analyzed for evaluation of temporal trends in PBDE and PCB levels in coastal ecosystems. Concentrations of PBDEs and PCBs in dolphins and sharks were 1-2 orders of magnitude greater than those in lower trophic-level fish species, indicating biomagnification of both of these contaminants in the marine foodweb. Based on the analysis of sharks and dolphins collected over a 10-year period, an exponential increase in the concentrations of PBDEs and PCBs has occurred in these marine predators. The doubling time of PBDE and PCB concentrations was estimated to be 2-3 years for bull sharks and 3-4 years for bottlenose dolphin.
    • Source: Boris Johnson-Restrepo, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Rudolf Addink, Douglas H. Adams. 2005. Environ. Sci. Technol., 39 (21), 8243 -8250.
  • New consumer research finds confusion over mercury levels in seafood and perceived risk to public health. Academic Center Launches "Real Mercury Facts". WASHINGTON, /PRNewswire/ - A national opinion poll commissioned by the Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation to assess public attitudes and beliefs about eating fish. The poll finds that almost one-third of the public (31%) reports being concerned about the amount of mercury in fish and shellfish, and as a result, many consumers are cutting back on the amount of seafood they eat. Additionally, about one-third (32%) of the public incorrectly said light canned tuna, salmon, and shrimp contain higher levels of mercury, while only 4% correctly identified swordfish according to the survey. Even less than 1% named king mackerel and shark as fish containing higher mercury levels. Of equal concern to the public health community is eliminating the confusion about the 2004 seafood consumption advice issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. EPA. The Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy created http://www.realmercuryfacts.org, which contains a summary in layman's terms of the most significant studies and policy papers that have been published and reported to date.
    • Source: PRNewswire, October 14, 2005.
  • New England Seafood Producers Association and Stop & Shop partnering to promote importance, health of seafood. BOSTON, /PRNewswire/ - The New England Seafood Producers Association (NESPA), a non-profit organization representing the interests of New England's shore-side seafood industry, and the region's largest food retailer announced partnership in promoting the importance of seafood in the modern diet. Commencing at the beginning of October and coinciding with National Fish and Seafood Month, Stop & Shop's 275 stores throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts will showcase educational posters at their seafood counters. These posters will display important information regarding the health of seafood, as well as a series of fast, easy, and delicious seafood recipes. Both organizations hope the campaign will encourage individuals and families to follow the American Heart Association's recommendation to eat seafood twice a week. To provide consumers with further in-depth information, NESPA has developed a consumer-oriented Web site, http://www.eatseafood.org, which contains health information and economic data about the seafood industry.

    Media Contact: Laura Pierce, (617) 646-1027, lpierce@oneillandassoc.com

    • Source: PRNewswire, October 6, 2005.
  • Dangerous mix: Oil, saltwater mar Louisiana coast, threatens future; Katrina dumps 193,000 barrels over damaged marshlands; fishing areas are polluted. NAIRN, La.-More than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina came ashore in Louisiana, the U.S. Coast Guard says the storm's surges and winds unleashed at least 193,000 barrels of oil and other petrochemicals across the fragile marshy ecosystems and populated areas of southern Louisiana. Katrina simultaneously set in motion a monumental surge of saltwater, which flooded tens of thousands of acres of vulnerable freshwater marsh, and early reports from air reconnaissance indicate that numerous outlying sandy barrier islands have been badly eroded by punishing waves. This unprecedented combination has indefinitely endangered the area's wildlife and natural beauty and compromised the supporting role played by open wetlands in mitigating flood and storm damage. Also at risk is the commerce that thrives in the coastal marshes. Louisiana's wetlands produce about a billion pounds of fish, crab, and oysters annually-one-third of the nation's commercial seafood.
    • Source: The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 23, 2005. Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
  • Wild Oats educates consumers on mercury levels in seafood. BOULDER, CO /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - Wild Oats Markets, Inc., a leading natural and organic foods retailer, has posted mercury warning signs in its seafood cases advising consumers to limit or avoid consumption of certain mercury-tainted seafood. Posted since May 2003, the signs address the population identified most at risk: pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant, and young children. The warnings centered on four species of fish with the highest levels of methylmercury: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. The signs also alerted all customers to limit consumption of albacore tuna and certain farm-raised salmon.
    • Source: PRNewswire, September 16, 2005.
  • State closes all shellfish growing areas in Alabama Gulf waters. MOBILE, AL. (AP)-The Alabama Department of Public Health has closed all shellfish-growing waters in Mobile and Baldwin counties because of the presence of red-tide cells, the agency said. State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson said the algae bloom, which is known as red tide and can be fatal to shellfish and cause respiratory problems in humans, forced the state to close Mobile Bay to harvesting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Williamson said shellfish harvesting in the bay, which is surrounded by Baldwin and Mobile counties shorelines, will resume when waters meet acceptable red-tide criteria.
    • Source: WKRG-TV, October 18, 2005, 4:56 AM. Copyright © 2005 Associated Press.

Meetings and Conferences

  • Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). November 13-17, 2005, Baltimore, MD. For more information, please visit SETAC's conference page Exit EPA Disclaimer
  • Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) 2005 Annual Meeting. December 4-7, 2005, Orlando, FL. For more information, please visit the SRA web site Exit EPA Disclaimer
  • American Public Health Association (APHA) 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition. December 10-14, 2005, Philadelphia, PA. For more information, please visit the APHA web site Exit EPA Disclaimer
  • 13th National Tribal Environmental Council Conference. April 30-May 4, 2006, Tenacula, CA. For more information, please visit the National Tribal Environmental Council Exit EPA Disclaimer

For More Information

Please email the newsletter (bigler.jeff@epa.gov) if you would like to announce an upcoming meeting, conference, or to submit an article.


Jump to main content.