US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Environ Geochem Health (2006) 28:445–471


U.S. Government Work


The objective of this study was to evaluate potential human and ecological risks associated with metals in fish and crayfish from mining in the Tri-States Mining District (TSMD). Crayfish (Orconectes spp.) and fish of six frequently consumed species (common carp, Cyprinus carpio; channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus; flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris; largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides; spotted bass, M. punctulatus; and white crappie, Pomoxis annularis) were collected in 2001–2002 from the Oklahoma waters of the Spring River (SR) and Neosho River (NR), which drain the TSMD. Samples from a mining-contaminated site in eastern Missouri and from reference sites were also analyzed. Individual fish were prepared for human consumption in the manner used locally by Native Americans (headed, eviscerated, and scaled) and analyzed for lead, cadmium, and zinc. Whole crayfish were analyzed as composite samples of 5–60 animals. Metals concentrations were typically higher in samples from sites most heavily affected by mining and lowest in reference samples. Within the TSMD, most metals concentrations were higher at sites on the SR than on the NR and were typically highest in common carp and crayfish than in other taxa. Higher concentrations and greater risk were associated with fish and crayfish from heavily contaminated SR tributaries than the SR or NR mainstems. Based on the results of this and previous studies, the human consumption of carp and crayfish could be restricted based on current criteria for lead, cadmium, and zinc, and the consumption of channel catfish could be restricted due to lead. Metals concentrations were uniformly low in Micropterus spp. and crappie and would not warrant restriction, however. Some risk to carnivorous avian wildlife from lead and zinc in TSMD fish and invertebrates was also indicated, as was risk to the fish themselves. Overall, the wildlife assessment is consistent with previously reported biological effects attributed to metals from the TSMD. The results demonstrate the potential for adverse effects in fish, wildlife, and humans and indicate that further investigation of human health and ecological risks, to include additional exposure pathways and endpoints, is warranted.