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Your Environment. Your Health.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Superfund Research Program

Exposure Levels of Persistent Pollutants in Urban Anglers

Project Leader: Kimberly Morland
Grant Number: P42ES007384
Funding Period: 2001 - 2006

Project-Specific Links

Project Summary (2001-2006)

Sediment and fish from the lower Hudson River estuarine region contain the residues of decades of contamination with persistent, bioaccumulative environmental pollutants. The complex mix of chemicals found in these waters includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and the organochlorine pesticides chlordane and DDT. Because of concern for risk of fetal neurotoxicity, advisories issued by the States of New York and New Jersey recommend that women of childbearing age abstain completely from eating fish and shellfish from this region. Despite these warnings, many recreational and subsistence fishers still regularly consume their catch and share with family members and friends.

To assess human body burdens of persistent pollutants, a pilot study of 46 local anglers was conducted in 1998-99 by investigators from the Mount Sinai SBRP. It was the first investigation ever undertaken of human body burdens of persistent pollutants in persons who consume fish and shellfish from the lower Hudson River. The data showed that consumers of locally caught fish and shellfish had higher body burdens of PCBs and organochlorine pesticide residues than non-consumers. There was a strong positive exposure-response gradient between fish and crab consumption and serum levels of highly chlorinated PCBs and DDE.

This cross-sectional, biomarker-based epidemiologic study will extend that pilot study. To further characterize patterns of human exposure, researchers are measuring body burdens of biologically persistent environmental pollutants in urban anglers, female members of their families with whom they share their catch, and a group of unexposed controls from the same communities. Levels of organochlorines are being measured in blood, and methylmercury is being measured in scalp hair. Body burdens will be correlated with number of years of fish and shellfish consumption, amount and species consumed, and areas where the fish or crabs were caught, and exposure-response gradients will be sought. Analyses will be performed to relate levels and contamination in the lower Hudson and New York-New Jersey Harbor.

This project will (1) provide information that can be used to assess the potential health risks posed to anglers and their families by consumption of locally caught fish and shellfish, and (2) guide the development of sound public health policies and programs for outreach and community-based intervention.

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