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Water: Technical Guidance

Executive Summary

A 1988 survey, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conducted by the American Fisheries Society, identified the need for standardizing the approaches to evaluating risks and developing fish consumption advisories that are comparable across different jurisdictions. Four major components were identified as critical to the development of a consistent risk-based approach: standardized practices for sampling and analyzing fish, standardized risk assessment methods, standardized procedures for making risk management decisions, and standardized approaches for communicating risk to the general public.

To address concerns raised by the survey respondents, EPA began developing a series of four documents designed to provide guidance to state, local, regional, and tribal environmental health officials responsible for designing contaminant monitoring programs and issuing fish and shellfish consumption advisories. It is essential that all four documents be used together, since no single volume addresses all of the topics involved in the development of fish consumption advisories. The documents are meant to provide guidance only and do not constitute a regulatory requirement. This document series includes:

Guidance for Assessing Chemical Contaminant Data for Use in Fish Advisories

Volume 1: Fish Sampling and Analysis
Volume 2: Risk Assessment and Fish Consumption Limits
Volume 3: Overview of Risk Management
Volume 4: Risk Communication

Volume 1 was first released in September 1993 and was followed by a second edition in September 1995. The Third Edition of Volume 1, released in November 2000, provides the latest information on sampling and analysis procedures based on new information provided by EPA. The major objective of Volume 1 is to provide information on sampling strategies for a contaminant monitoring program. In addition, information is provided on selection of target species; selection of chemicals as target analytes; development of human health screening values; sample collection procedures including sample processing, sample preservation, and shipping; sample analysis; and data reporting and analysis.

Volume 2 was first released in June 1994 and was followed by a second edition in July 1997. The third edition was released in November 2000. This volume provides guidance on the development of appropriate meal sizes and frequency of meal consumption (e.g., one meal per week) for the target analytes that bioaccumulate in fish tissues. In addition to the presentation of consumption limits, Volume 2 contains a discussion of risk assessment methods used to derive the consumption limits as well as a discussion of methods to modify these limits to reflect local conditions. Volume 2 also contains toxicological profiles for each of 25 target analytes.

Volume 3 was published in June 1996 and provides an overview of a risk management framework. This volume provides framework for selecting and implementing various options for reducing health risks associated with the consumption of chemically contaminated fish and shellfish. Using a human health risk-based approach, states can determine the level of the advisory and the most appropriate type of advisory to issue. Methods to evaluate population risks for specific groups, waterbodies, and geographic areas are also presented. An update of Volume 3 is scheduled for 2002.

Volume 4 was published in March 1995 and provides guidance on risk communication as a process for sharing information with the public on the health risks of consuming chemically contaminated fish and shellfish. This volume provides guidance on problem analysis and program objectives, audience identification and needs assessments, communication strategy design, implementation and evaluation, and responding to public inquiries. An update of Volume 4 is scheduled for late 2001.

EPA welcomes your suggestions and comments. A major goal of this guidance document series is to provide a clear and usable summary of critical information necessary to make informed decisions concerning the development of fish consumption advisories. We encourage comments and hope these documents will be a useful adjunct to the resources used by the states, local governments, and tribal organizations in making decisions concerning the development of fish advisories within their various jurisdictions.

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