Higher levels of pollutants found in fish caught near a coal-fired power plant

November 07, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 7 - Emissions from coal-fired power plants may be an important source of water pollution and fish contamination, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in a study being presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C. The study, abstract number 157770, found higher-than-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-recommended levels of mercury and elevated levels of selenium in channel catfish caught in a rural area upstream of Pittsburgh and downwind from a coal-fired power plant. Both mercury and selenium are well-known contaminants of coal burning for power generation. The results will be presented at a special session on "Contaminants in Freshwater Fish: Toxicity, Sources and Risk Communication," at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 7.

To complete the study, researchers recruited local anglers to catch channel catfish from the three rivers area of Pittsburgh and from Kittanning, Pa., an area 40 miles upstream of Pittsburgh. The three rivers area includes the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Based on testing of 63 fish, they found that Kittanning and three rivers area fish had 19 and 3.1 times more mercury, respectively, than store-bought fish. They also found significantly higher levels of mercury and selenium in the Kittanning-caught fish than in the fish caught in the three rivers area.

Results showed that the risk of developing neurological disorders from ingesting catfish with such high levels of mercury as those caught near Kittanning were eight times higher than the EPA's acceptable risk for children under six years of age; seven times higher for children between seven and 16 years of age; and six times higher for women of child-bearing age. For the general population, this risk was five times higher than the EPA's acceptable risk. The results also indicated to the researchers that fish can be used as bio-sensors to locate and find sources of area pollution.

"Given these results, we should be concerned about fish caught in areas that are situated close to coal-fired power plants, even if upstream from more heavily polluted areas," said Conrad D. Volz, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., principal investigator, department of environmental and occupational health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "These types of power plants may be significant sources of mercury and selenium in fish contamination. We believe it is important for fish consumption advisories to take into account industries such as power plants that may be important sources of water pollution, and warn people in these areas about the dangers of consuming local fish."

Ingestion of fish with high levels of mercury has been linked to neurological and developmental problems and birth defects.
-end-
The study was funded by grants from the Highmark Foundation, the DSF Charitable Trust and the Heinz Endowments. Co-authors include Yan Liu, Nancy Sussman, Ph.D., Tiffany Green, Jim Peterson, Ph.D., Charles Christen, Maryann Donovan, Ph.D., Devra Davis, Ph.D., Patricia Eagon, Ph.D., Kelly McMahon, M.D., and Ravi Sharma, Ph.D., all with the University of Pittsburgh; Sean Brady, Venture Outdoors, Pittsburgh; Paul Caruso, channel catfish angler; and Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action, Pittsburgh.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.