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Water: News

Newsletter - September 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


Current Events, News and Journal Articles

  • With Sales Plummeting, Tuna Strikes Back. New York Times - Tuna has been Americans' favorite seafood for almost 30 years. But in March 2004, the FDA and EPA issued a national mercury advisory warning about high mercury levels in some types of canned tuna fish. Since that time, industry sales have declined, and tuna has developed an image problem. In response, the tuna industry has mounted an advertising campaign called "Tuna - A Smart Catch." The campaign highlights the health benefits of tuna, but does not address the mercury issue. The industry is awaiting government approval of the campaign, which will be supported by a fee imposed on all tuna producers.

    Source: Copyright © 2005 New York Times, Melanie Warner, August 19, 2005.


  • CDC: Levels of lead and other chemicals in Americans' bodies are dropping. Atlanta, GA (AP) - Levels of lead, secondhand-smoke byproducts, and other potentially dangerous contaminants are lower in Americans today than they were 10 years ago. This was the finding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) first National Report on Exposure to Environmental Chemicals in 2001, which is updated every two years. For the latest report, the CDC monitored blood and urine samples from 2,400 people in 2001 and 2002 and analyzed these samples for 148 environmental contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, insect repellants, and disinfectants. The report's findings showed that only 1.6 percent of U.S. children aged 1 to 5 had elevated lead levels between 1999 and 2001, compared to 4.4 percent in the early 1990s. The CDC also tested for nonsmokers' levels of cotinine, a nicotine product that remains in the body, and found that levels dropped by 75 percent in adults and 68 percent in children in the same period. African- Americans still had more than twice the cotinine levels of whites or Mexican-Americans, and levels in African-American children were more than twice those of nonsmoking adults. The report's other findings included:

    • Five percent of smokers over 20 years of age had cadmium in their blood at levels that could potentially cause a kidney injury. Cadmium can be associated with cigarette smoke.
    • Concentrations of two pesticides, aldrin and dieldrin, discontinued in the U.S. in 1970, were either very low or undetectable in U.S. adults.
    • No women in the survey had high methylmercury concentrations, which can come from consuming fish. The CDC will continue monitoring mercury levels in women of childbearing age. In this age group, 5.7 percent of women had levels approaching those thought to cause neurological damage.
    Additional information is on the National Report on Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, available on the Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/

    Source: Copyright © 2005 Associated Press, Daniel Yee, Friday July 22, 2005.


  • Mercury in the northern crayfish, Orconectes virilis (Hagen), in New England. The authors assessed the effects of drainage basin, habitat type, size class, and sex on mercury concentrations in the northern crayfish, Orconectes virilis (Hagen). Drainage basin, habitat type, and size class had significant effects on mercury levels in crayfish tail muscle, even though animals from almost half the sites had mean mercury values at or below background levels. The mercury levels observed in crayfish tail muscle indicate a low risk for consumers. Unexpectedly, crayfish from creeks had higher mercury levels than animals from other habitats, possibly as a result of point source contamination or dietary differences. The authors suggest that crayfish represent a good indicator of mercury bioavailability in aquatic ecosystems. The authors believe our understanding of mercury dynamics in lower food webs has been hindered by an under-appreciation of the complexity in macroinvertebrate foraging habits. The authors also believe that further studies on benthos with well-understood life histories and foraging behavior are necessary to understand mercury transfer and bioavailability through aquatic systems.

    Source: Pennuto, C.M., O.P. Lane, D.C. Evers, R.J. Taylor, and J. Loukmas. 2005. Ecotoxicology 14 (1-2): 149-162
  • Mercury in an assortment of processed and unprocessed seafood samples. No Abstract available.

    Source: Levine, K.E., M.A. Levine, F.X. Weber, J.P. Henderson, and P.M. Grohse. 2005. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 74 (5):973-9.


  • Toxicity and bioaccumulation of heavy metals in mullet fish (Liza klunzingeri). Mullet fish (Liza klunzingeri) is commercially important in Kuwait. The authors studied the toxicity and bioaccumulation of heavy metals (e.g., Pb, Ni, V, Cu and Fe) in mullet collected from Kuwait Bay. Mullet were maintained in filtered sea water in the laboratory, and a stock solution of heavy metals was added to the water and renewed every 24 hours. Of the five metals, Pb had the lowest observed effect concentration (LOEC) at 1 parts per billion (ppb). Using multi-factor Probit analysis, toxicity tests revealed Pb with maximum effect at median lethal concentration (LC50), followed by V, Ni, Cu, and Fe. The bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) were estimated and found to be in the sequence Pb > V > Fe > Cu and Ni. After 30 days of exposure, bioaccumulation in fish exhibited increasing metal levels in liver, followed by gills and muscles. These results suggest the potential use of mullet as a bioindicator of metal pollution.

    Source: Bu-Olayan, A.H., and B.V. Thomas. 2005. Chemistry and Ecology 21(3): 191-197.


  • Assessment of trace elements in canned fishes (mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines and herrings) marketed in Georgia and Alabama. Concentrations of 14 trace elements (e.g., Hg, Ag, As, Cd, Cr, Fe, Pb, Mn, Ni, Co, Cu, Sn, V, Zn) were analyzed in canned fish purchased in food outlets in the United States. Estimated weekly intakes of these metals by adults consuming different species of canned fish were also evaluated from the literature. Different brands of pink salmon, red salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring were purchased from food stores in Alabama and Georgia. There were considerable differences in trace element levels amongst both fish species and canned fish brands. The mean mercury level in tuna brands was higher than the mean detected for any of the other fish species analyzed, with some tuna samples exceeding recommended U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action levels; however, the authors suggest that there is no risk to health because the levels were lower than their respective permissible weekly intakes (assuming estimated intakes of Hg, As, Cd, Pb, Sn, Fe, Cu and Zn from weekly consumption of 350 g of canned fish).

    Source: Ikem, A., and N.O. Eagiebor. 2005. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 18(8): 771-787.


  • Anthropogenic impacts on mercury concentrations and nitrogen and carbon isotope ratios in fish muscle tissue of the Truckee River watershed, Nevada, USA. The lower Truckee River originates at Lake Tahoe, CA/NV and empties into Pyramid Lake, NV. The river has minimal anthropogenic chemical inputs until it flows through Reno and Sparks, NV, and receives inputs from Steamboat Creek (SBC). SBC originates at Washoe Lake, NV, where there were six historic mills that used mercury for gold and silver amalgamation in the 1800s. Since then, mercury has been released down the creek to the Truckee River. The SBC also receives agricultural and urban nonpoint source inputs and treated effluent from the Reno-Sparks water reclamation facility. Fish fillet tissue was collected from different species in SBC and the Truckee River and analyzed for mercury and stable isotopes. Nitrogen (delta[15]N) and carbon (delta[13]C) isotopic values in these tissues provide information as to fish food resources and help explain their relative Hg levels. Mercury levels and delta(15)N and delta(13)C values in fish muscle from the Truckee River collected below the SBC confluence were significantly different than those found in fish collected upstream. Mercury fish tissue collected below the confluence for all but three fish sampled were significantly greater (0.1 to 0.65 parts per million [ppm] wet wt.) than those measured above the confluence (0.02 to 0.1 ppm). Delta(15)N and delta(13)C isotopic values of fish muscle collected from below the confluence were higher and lower, respectively, than those upstream. These values most likely reflected wastewater inputs. Impact of SBC inputs on muscle tissue isotope values declined down river, whereas the impact due to Hg inputs increased.

    Source: Sexauer, G.M., L. Saito, and M. Peacock. 2005. Science of the Total Environment 347 (1-3):282-94.


  • Concentrations of cadmium, lead, and zinc in fish from mining-influenced waters of northeastern Oklahoma: Sampling of blood, carcass, and liver for aquatic biomonitoring. The Tri-States Mining District (TSMD) of Missouri (MO), Kansas (KS), and Oklahoma (OK), was mined for Pb and Zn for more than 100 years. Although mining ceased more than 30 years ago, wastes remain widely distributed in the District, and contamination appears to have occurred in the surface and groundwater of the Spring River-Neosho River (SR-NR) system of northeastern OK. In 2001, the authors collected 74 fish samples from 6 locations in the SR-NR system, including common carp; channel and flathead catfish; largemouth and spotted bass; and white crappie. Additional fish were collected from locations in MO that included three reference sites and a positive control site heavily contaminated by Pb. Blood, carcass (e.g., headed, eviscerated, and scaled), and liver (carp only) samples were analyzed for Cd, Pb, and Zn. The authors assessed the degree to which fish from the OK portion of the SR-NR system were contaminated by these elements and evaluated fish blood sampling as a biomonitoring tool. Cd and Pb levels in carp and catfish from OK sites were elevated, and Pb levels approached those of the highly contaminated site in MO, but levels in bass and crappie were relatively low. For Zn, there was a weak correlation among levels in the three tissues, and none of the samples appeared to reflect site contamination. Differences among sites were statistically significant only for blood, despite the fact that mean liver concentrations were 100-fold greater than in blood. Blood Cd and Pb levels were positively correlated with the levels of the same metal in carp and catfish carcasses or in carp livers. The authors' data showed that potentially non-lethal blood sampling can be useful for biomonitoring of some metals in carp, catfish, and other fish.

    Source: Brumbaugh, W.G., C.J. Schmitt, and T.W. May. 2005. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 49 (1):76-88.

  • Neuromotor deficits and mercury concentrations in rats exposed to methylmercury and fish oil. It has been thought that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or other n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may prevent or ameliorate methylmercury's neurotoxicity. To examine interactions between PUFAs and methylmercury exposure, the authors exposed 66 female Long-Evans rats to methylmercury continuously via drinking water from 15 weeks of age. Water included methylmercury levels of 0, 0.5, and 5.0 ppm, creating estimated intakes of about 0, 40, and 400 mug/kg/day across exposure groups. Additionally, 58 female offspring were exposed to methylmercury only during gestation. Rats consumed one of two diets, each based on AIN-93 formulation, providing a 2 (generation) X 2 (diet) X 3 (methylmercury exposure) factorial experimental design. A coconut oil diet (1/3 of fats were provided by coconut oil) was marginally adequate in n-3 PUFAs and contained no DHA. A fish oil diet was rich in n-3 fatty acids, including DHA. The diets were comparable in n-6 fatty acids. Forelimb grip strength declined with age in all test groups, but was greatest for those exposed chronically to 400 mug/kg/day of methylmercury. The high-dose group also displayed hind limb crossing, gait disorders, and diminished running wheel activity. Dietary n-3 fatty acids did not influence these effects.

    Source: Day, J.J. M.N. Reed, and M.C. Newland. 2005. Neurotoxicological Teratology 27(4):629-41.
  • Prospective study of dietary fat and risk of cataract extraction among U.S. women. The authors examined prospectively the relationship between dietary fat intake and cataract extraction in adult women from the Nurses' Health Study. Between 1984 and 2000, 71,083 women were followed prospectively for up to 16 years. Dietary fat was assessed by repeated food frequency questionnaires, and cases of cataract extraction were determined by a biennial questionnaire. A multivariate-adjusted relative risk for the highest quintile compared with the lowest quintile of total fat intake was 1.10 (95% confidence interval). Women in the highest quintile of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid had a 12% lower risk of cataract extraction compared with those in the lowest quintile. Total fish intake was inversely associated with cataract (for intake of greater than or equal to 3/week vs. less than 1/month: relative risk = 0.89). The authors suggest that higher intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid and fish consumption may modestly reduce the risk of cataracts.

    Source: Lu, M., E. Cho, A. Taylor, S.E. Hankinson, W.C. Willett, and P.F. Jacques. 2005. American Journal of Epidemiology 161(10):948-59.

  • Heavy metal levels in fish from coastal waters of Uruguay. Copper, mercury, and zinc were analyzed in muscle and liver (N = 163) of seven fish species harvested in coastal waters off Montevideo and Piriapolis (control site), including Odontesthes spp., Mugil platanus, Micropogonias furnieri, Urophycis brasiliensis, Cynoscion guatucupa, Menticirrhus americanus, and Mustelus schmitti. These species are commonly consumed by the local population. Heavy metal levels in this study were generally below those reported for fish caught in Argentinean and Brazilian coastal waters, with some exceptions for mercury and zinc. Based on copper, mercury, and zinc levels in muscle tissue, the authors concluded that the fish studied are acceptable for human consumption; however, it is recommended that fish liver (containing up to 466 ppm Zn dry weight in liver) or large specimens of the investigated species not be consumed. The authors believe that regional programs involving neighboring countries should be established to assess the fisheries resources and potential human health risks.

    Source: Viana, F., R. Huertas, and E. Danulat. 2005. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 48 (4):530-7.

  • Alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates contamination of crustaceans and fishes from the Adriatic Sea (Italy). The authors studied the occurrence of alkylphenols (APs) and their ethoxylates (APEs) in eight edible marine species from the Adriatic Sea and the corresponding intake for the Italian population. Two crustaceans (e.g., Norway lobster and spottail mantis shrimp) and six fish species (e.g., anchovy, Atlantic mackerel, European hake, red mullet, common sole, and angler) were analyzed for nonylphenol (NP), octylphenol (OP), and octylphenol polyethoxylates (OPEs). These compounds were found in all samples. NP was detected at the highest concentrations: 118-399 and 9.5-1431 ppb fresh weight (fw), respectively, in crustaceans and fish. OP was found at respective levels of 2.7-4.7 and 0.3-3.8 ppb fw in crustaceans and fish, whereas OPE was determined at respective concentrations of 1.2-16.8 and 0.2-21.1 ppb fw in the same species. These results, together with those from a previous study on four edible mollusks, allow an estimate of respective daily intakes for NP, OP, and OPE of about 12, 0.1, and 0.1 micrograms day(-1) for an Italian adult living along the Adriatic Coast. Exposure data from other sources to these chemicals and others with similar biological characteristics are needed.

    Source: Ferrara, F., F. Fabietti, M. Delise, E. Funari. 2005. Chemosphere 59(8):1145-50.

  • Patterns of Hg bioaccumulation and transfer in aquatic food webs across multi-lake studies in the northeast United States. The Northeast (NE) receives some of the highest concentrations of atmospheric mercury deposition of any region in North America. Fish from many lakes in the NE carry Hg burdens that present risks to both humans and wildlife consumers. The authors wanted to identify the lake attributes in the NE that were most likely associated with high Hg residues in fish. The authors compared data collected in four separate multi-lake studies. Associations among Hg in fish (four studies) or in zooplankton and fish (two studies), and numerous chemical, physical, land use, and ecological variables were compared across more than 150 lakes. The authors found the following:
    • The most important predictors of Hg residues in fish were similar among data sets. Key chemical covariates (e.g., pH, acid-neutralizing capacity, and SO4) were negatively correlated with Hg bioaccumulation in the fish. The authors also found negative correlations with several parameters that have not been previously identified (e.g., human land use variables and zooplankton density).
    • Certain predictors were unique to individual data sets. Differences in lake population characteristics, sampling protocols, and fish species in each study likely explained some of the results.
    • Lakes with high rates of Hg bioaccumulation and trophic transfer have low pH and low productivity with relatively undisturbed watersheds. This suggests that atmospheric deposition of Hg is the dominant or sole source of input.

    This study highlights some of the fundamental complexities when comparing data sets over different environmental conditions, as well as highlights the utility of such comparisons for revealing key factors important in Hg trophic transfer among types of lakes.

    Source: Chen, C.Y., R.S. Stemberger, N.C. Kamman, B.M. Mayes, and C.L. Folt. 2005. Ecotoxicology 14 (1-2): 135-47.


  • Mercury policy and science in northeastern North America: the Mercury Action Plan of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. In June 1998, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG-ECP) adopted a comprehensive regional Mercury Action Plan (MAP). This MAP had aggressive emission reduction goals for the New England states, the Atlantic provinces, and Quebec. New Jersey and New York have also been active participants. The NEG-ECP MAP was developed based on data demonstrating widespread mercury impacts in the region and the existence of many controllable mercury pollution sources. The MAP established a long-term goal of virtually eliminating anthropogenic mercury releases in the region, with interim goals of a 50% reduction by 2003 and 75% by 2010. Regulatory initiatives initiated under the MAP have exceeded federal efforts addressing mercury and have resulted in substantial regional reductions in mercury pollution. Since MAP was adopted, the region has reduced mercury emissions by almost 55%. The MAP shows what can be technologically, economically, and politically accomplished and has influenced mercury reduction programs on a global scale. Major research areas where additional information would be helpful to policy makers include improved environmental indicators for tracking progress; mercury release inventories for mercury product breakage and mobile sources; deposition sources, including in-region and out-of-region contributors; elemental mercury exposure and effects data; mercury levels in fish; ecological impacts of mercury; and data on the effectiveness of outreach efforts.

    Source: Smith, C. M., and L.J. Trip. 2005. Ecotoxicology 14(1-2): 19-35.


  • Dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs, and non-dioxin-like PCBs in foodstuffs: occurrence and dietary intake in The Netherlands. The authors collected occurrence data on dioxins (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins [PCDDs] and dibenzofurans [PCDFs]), dioxin-like PCBs (polychlorinated non-ortho and mono-ortho biphenyls), and non-dioxin-like PCBs (congeners 28, 52, 101, 118, 138, 153 and 180) in food products consumed in the Netherlands. These data were collected in monitoring programs conducted from 1998 and 1999 and combined with food consumption data to assess the dietary intake of these contaminants. The estimated median life-long-averaged intake of the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the population is 1.2 pg WHO-TEQ (toxic equivalents) per kg body weight (bw) per day, whereas the estimated median life-long-averaged intake of indicator-PCBs is 5.6 ng per kg bw per day. Contributions of different food groups to the total intake of dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs, and non-dioxin-like PCBs are fairly uniformly distributed over the foods consumed: meat products (23% and 27%, respectively), dairy products (27% and 17%, respectively), fish (16% and 26%, respectively), eggs (4% and 5%, respectively), vegetable products (13% and 7%, respectively), and industrial oils and fats (17% and 18%, respectively). The authors report continuing reductions in the intake of dioxins and PCBs. These reductions are associated with the decreased levels of these contaminants in most foodstuffs. The authors believe decreasing the exposure to both dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs needs continuous attention.

    Source: Baars, A. J., M.I. Bakker, R.A. Baumann, P.E. Boon, J.I. Freijer, L.A. Hoogenboom, R.A. Hoogerbrugge, J.D. van Klaveren, A.K. Liem, W.A. Traag, J. de Vries. 2005. Toxicology Letters 151(1):51-61.

Meetings and Conferences

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

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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