US Geological Survey
Environmental contaminants in Freshwater Fish and Their Risk to Piscivorous Wildlife Based on a National Monitoring Program
Date of this Version
Organochlorine chemical residues and elemental concentrations were measured in piscivorous and benthivorous fish at 111 sites from large U.S. river basins. Potential contaminant sources such as urban and agricultural runoff, industrial discharges, mine drainage, and irrigation varied among the sampling sites. Our objectives were to provide summary statistics for chemical contaminants and to determine if contaminant concentrations in the fish were a risk to wildlife that forage at these sites. Concentrations of dieldrin, total DDT, total PCBs, toxaphene, TCDDEQ, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, selenium, and zinc exceeded toxicity thresholds to protect fish and piscivorous wildlife in samples from at least one site; most exceedences were for total PCBs, mercury, and zinc. Chemical concentrations in fish from the Mississippi River Basin exceeded the greatest number of toxicity thresholds. Screening level wildlife risk analysis models were developed for bald eagle and mink using no adverse effect levels (NOAELs), which were derived from adult dietary exposure or tissue concentration studies and based primarily on reproductive endpoints. No effect hazard concentrations (NEHC) were calculated by comparing the NOAEL to the food ingestion rate (dietary-based NOAEL) or biomagnification factor (tissue-based NOAEL) of each receptor. Piscivorous wildlife may be at risk from a contaminant if the measured concentration in fish exceeds the NEHC. Concentrations of most organochlorine residues and elemental contaminants represented no to low risk to bald eagle and mink at most sites. The risk associated with pentachloroanisole, aldrin, Dacthal, methoxychlor, mirex, and toxaphene was unknown because NOAELs for these contaminants were not available for bald eagle or mink. Risk differed among modeled species and sites. Our screening level analysis indicates that the greatest risk to piscivorous wildlife was from total DDT, total PCBs, TCDD-EQ, mercury, and selenium. Bald eagles were at greater risk to total DDT and total PCBs than mink, whereas risks of TCDD-EQ, mercury, and selenium were greater to mink than bald eagle.
Published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (2009) 152:469–494.