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Monitoring Harmful Pollutants In Great Lakes Fish
July 1, 2007

A 1997 Congressional report that provided a quantitative human health risk assessment of mercury estimated that between one and three percent of women of childbearing age in the United States consume fish in quantities sufficient to place their fetuses at risk from mercury exposure.

“Identifying the concentration levels of harmful pollutants, such as mercury or PCBs, in fresh-water lake fish is necessary for public health officials to develop appropriate and protective fish consumption advisories,” says Thomas M. Holsen, professor of civil & environmental engineering at Clarkson University.

Prof. Holsen is collaborating with a team of fellow researchers from Clarkson, as well as scientists and engineers from SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Oswego on a project to provide chemical analysis of Great Lakes fish tissue. The research is funded by a $1.75-million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Fish Monitoring Program.

The goal of the five-year project is to assess accurate levels of mercury, PCBs, dioxin and other harmful chemicals in lake fish.

“The project will analyze approximately 110 samples per year,” explains Prof. Holsen, who is the principal investigator for the project. “We’ll also conduct a broad gas chromatography/mass spectrometry scan to identify currently unmeasured pollutants in the fish. Our findings should yield evidence that the scientific community can use to more accurately assess the risks of contaminants found on the health of the fish population itself and the wildlife that consumes them.”

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