Exposure to environmental contaminants
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Exposure to environmental contaminants. Hg in seafood Acute health effects ( Minimata ) Chronic health effects ( seafood (NY state)) Endocrine disruptors Effects on humans Effects on other animals Long Island Sound data. Heavy Metal Pollution in Water: Pb, As, Hg , Cd, others.

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Exposure to environmental contaminants

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Exposure to environmental contaminants

Exposure to environmental contaminants

  • Hg in seafood

    • Acute health effects (Minimata)

    • Chronic health effects (seafood (NY state))

  • Endocrine disruptors

    • Effects on humans

    • Effects on other animals

  • Long Island Sound data

Heavy metal pollution in water pb as hg cd others

Heavy Metal Pollution in Water: Pb, As, Hg, Cd, others

Mad as a hatter

‘Mad as a Hatter’

Did you know that the Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is modeled after an occupational disease of the 18th and 19th centuries? In that era, hat makers were heavily exposed to mercury used in the preparation of felt. Consequently, many suffered brain damage and became psychotic, or “mad” (Katy, 1979).

  • Reference: Dennis Coon & John O. Mitterer (2007), Introduction to Psychology, 11th Edition, Wadsworth Cengage Learning




  • Human exposure through fish consumption

  • Neurotoxic; Neurodevelopmental effects

  • Crosses blood-brain, placental barriers

  • Bioaccumulation & biomagnification

Mehg biomagnification

MeHg Biomagnification

Top predators and older, slow growing fish have high MeHg concentrations.

Exposure to environmental contaminants

Exposure route: sediments to fish to consumers

Exposure to environmental contaminants

Minimata Disease, 1956

Over 2,000 victims

Exposure to environmental contaminants

Source: acetaldehyde factory

~25-30 tons released

Exposure to environmental contaminants

Exact mechanism of action not really known


Rivers and lakes under advisory 1993 2004

% Rivers and Lakes Under Advisory 1993-2004

Fish consumption advisories for mercury 2004

Fish Consumption Advisories for Mercury (2004)

Mercury exposure in new yorkers

Mercury Exposure in New Yorkers

  • NYC HANES (Health and Nutrition Examination Survey)

  • 1/4 NYC adults have elevated blood Hg levels

    • 20-49 y old women, average blood mercury level 2.64 µg/L

      (3x the national average (0.83 µg/L)


  • New Yorkers eat more fish

  • Fish consumed by New Yorkers is more contaminated with mercury

1 4 nyc adults have elevated blood hg levels

1/4 NYC adults have elevated blood Hg levels

  • 20-49 y old women, 2.64 µg/L (3x national average)

    • ¼ of these ≥ 5 µg/L

  • <5 µg/L for those who eat fish ≤3 times/week

  • >5 µg/L for those who eat fish ≥ 4 times/week

  • Higher-income adults have higher mercury levels;

    • highest income bracket 3.6 µg/L,

    • 2.4 µg/L for lowest income group

  • blood mercury higher among NYC Asian women (4.1 µg/L);

    • 45% have blood mercury levels ≥ 5 µg/L

    • Esp. foreign-born Chinese women; eat ~ 3 fish meals / week, compared to ~1 among average New Yorker

    • 1/4 Chinese New Yorkers eat fish 5+ times/week

      (McKelvey et al. 2007)

Significance of nyc hanes study

Significance of NYC HANES study

  • Important source of information about the health of a community

  • Information about local environment

  • Highlights need for improved education

Fda seafood consumption guidelines

FDA Seafood consumption guidelines

“Women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children”.

  • “should include fish and shellfish in their diets. But . . . ”

2. “all fish and shellfish contain . . . mercury . . . those that contain higher levels . . . may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system”

Consumption guidelines 2

Consumption guidelines 2

  • Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish

  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 meals) a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury (shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish).

  • You may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.

  • Eat up to 6 ounces (1 meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week.

  • Problem: Current recommendations based on fish Hg data from ~1991-2004.

Risks benefits of fish consumption

Risks/Benefits of Fish consumption

Estimated EPA/DHA and MeHg intake from one and two 3-ounce servings of seafood.

Other water pollutants

Other water pollutants

  • Nutrients (eutrophication)

  • POPs (persistent organic pollutants)

    • PCDDs, mirex, DDT

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Endocrine disruptors

Silent spring

Silent Spring

  • Rachel Carson, 1962

    • Drew national attention to eggshell thinning caused by DDT

  • Our Stolen Future, Theo Colborn, 1997

Endocrine disrupting compounds edcs

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDCs)

  • Chemicals routinely used in industrial processes, agriculture and the production of a variety of domestic products which are able to bind to, and either activate or block endogenous steroid receptors

  • Widely distributed, environmentally stable and lipophilic

  • One of six high priority research issues, EPA 1996

Endocrine disrupting compounds edcs1

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDCs)

  • PCBs

  • PAHs

  • Surfactants

  • Plasticizers

  • Steroid hormones

  • Phytoestrogens

Edcs in the home

EDCs in the home

  • Phthalates

    • Food storage containers

    • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubing/products (such as water pipes)

    • Flexible plastics, plastic bottles

  • Bisphenol A (BPA)

    • Metal cans of food and infant formula

    • Hard-plastic baby bottles

    • Sippy cups

    • Plastic bottles

Avoid exposure

Avoid exposure

  • How to Avoid Phthalates and BPA:

    • Do not microwave food/beverages in plastic

    • Do not microwave or heat plastic cling wraps

    • Do not place plastics in the dishwasher

    • If using hard polycarbonate plastics (water bottles/baby bottles/sippy cups), do not use for warm/hot liquids

    • Use safe alternatives such as glass or polyethylene plastic (symbol #1)

    • Avoid canned foods when possible (BPA may be used in can linings)

    • Look for labels on products that say “phthalate-free” or “BPA-free”

Environmental relevance

Environmental Relevance

  • Human

    • SevesoWomen’s Health Study (SWHS)

      • Exposure to relatively pure TCDD (1976)

      • Significant, dose-response increased risk of breast cancer

  • In males:

    • Cryptorchidism, hypospadias & decreased sperm counts

Environmental relevance1

Environmental relevance

  • Reptile

    • Dicofol(DDT analog) spill by Tower Chemical Co. in Lake Apopka, Florida, 1980

      • Compared to reference lakes, juvenile male alligators exhibited significantly:

        • Smaller penis size (24% average decrease)

        • Lower plasma testosterone levels (70% lower)

    • Baltic seal body burdens

    • Snails & TBT exposure

Environmental relevance amphibian

Environmental Relevance--Amphibian

Hayes et al., 2002



Schmitt et al., 2005

Largemouth bass testes from Rio Grande

Exposure to environmental contaminants

Arukwe and Goksoyr, 2003

Long island sound

Long Island Sound

  • Watershed: 9 million inhabitants; 44 sewage treatment plants (STPs) (1 billion gallons day-1)

  • Historically used for shipping, fishing and waste disposal

  • Fluvial input: Connecticut, Housatonic, Quinnipiac, Thames

Exposure to environmental contaminants

Water Quality Index

dissolved inorganic nitrogen, dissolved inorganic phosphorus, chlorophyll a, water clarity, and dissolved


Exposure to environmental contaminants

LI Sound

Li sound

LI Sound

Li sound1

LI Sound

  • PCB concentrations in striped bass from the Sound declined from about 2.5 ppm to less than 0.5 ppm

Pathogens in li sound

Pathogens in LI Sound

  • Pathogens –disease causing bacteria and viruses

  • Primarily from stormwater runoff

    • animal waste,

    • human waste

      • from improperly maintained septic systems

      • illegal connections to ‘storm sewers’

      • Older systems combine wastewater and storm water; wastewater transport to STP can overflow during high rainfall events

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