Contaminants in Fish of the Hackensack Meadowlands, New Jersey: Size, Sex, and Seasonal Relationships as Related to Health Risks



The trace metal content and related safety (health risk) of Hackensack River fish were assessed within the Hackensack Meadowlands of New Jersey, USA. Eight elements were analyzed in the edible portion (i.e., muscle) of species commonly taken by anglers in the area. The white perch collection (Morone americana) was large enough (n = 168) to enable statistically significant inferences, but there were too few brown bullheads and carp to reach definite conclusions. Of the eight elements analyzed, the one that accumulates to the point of being a health risk in white perch is mercury (Hg). Relationships between mercury concentrations and size and with collection season were observed; correlation with lipid content, total polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) content, or collection site were very weak. Only 18% of the Hg was methylated in October (n = 8), whereas June and July fish (n = 12) had 100% methylation of Hg. White perch should not be considered edible because the Hg level exceeded the “one meal per month” action level of 0.47 μg/g wet weight (ppm) in 32% of our catch and 2.5% exceeded the “no consumption at all” level of 1 μg/g. The larger fish represent greater risk for Hg. Furthermore, the warmer months, when more recreational fishing takes place, might present greater risk. A more significant reason for avoiding white perch is the PCB contamination because 40% of these fish exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action level of 2000 ng/g for PCBs and all white perch exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency cancer/health guideline (49 ng/g) of no more than one meal/month. In fact, nearly all were 10 times that advisory level. There were differences between male and female white perch PCB levels, with nearly all of those above the US FDA action level being male. Forage fish (mummichogs and Atlantic silversides) were similarly analyzed, but no correlations were found with any other parameters. The relationship of collection site to contaminants cannot be demonstrated because sufficient numbers of game fish could not be collected at many sites at all seasons.



The assistance of many people is gratefully acknowledged: at the NJMC, Brett Bragin, who led the collection team, Yefim Lewinsky, who performed much of the atomic absorption spectrophotometry, and Edward Konsevick, who performed data management; at UMDNJ, Theodore Proctor, who has been an invaluable lab assistant for many years, for tissue processing and atomic absorption spectrophotometry; at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Ms. Linda Zaoudeh for organic contaminant analyses. This project was part of a multifaceted, multi-institutional study funded by the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute.


  1. Ashley JTF, Baker JE, Zlokovitz E, Secor D, Wales S (2000) Linking habitat use of Hudson River striped bass to accumulation of PCB congeners. Environ Sci Technol 34:1023–1029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashley JTF, Horwitz R, Ruppel B, Steinbacher J (2003) A comparison of accumulated PCB patterns in American eels and striped bass from the Hudson and Delaware River estuaries. Mar Pollut Bull 46:1294–1308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bloom NS (1992) On the chemical form of mercury in edible fish and marine invertebrate tissue. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 49:1010–1017Google Scholar
  4. Bunton TE, Baksi SM, George SG, Frazier JM (1987) Abnormal hepatic copper storage in a teleost fish (Morone americana). Vet Pathol 24:515–524Google Scholar
  5. European Communities (2001) Commission regulation (EC) No. 466/2001 of 8 March 2001 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. Off J Eur Communities L77, 10Google Scholar
  6. Faust BC (1992) The octanol/water distribution coefficients of methylmercuric species: the role of aqueous-phase chemical speciation. Environ Toxicol Chem 11:1373–1376Google Scholar
  7. Hall BD, Bodaly RA, Fudge RJP, Rudd JWM, Rosenberg DM (1997) Food as the dominant pathway of methylmercury uptake by fish. Water Air Soil Pollut 100:13–24Google Scholar
  8. Hauge P, Bukowski J, Morton P, Boriek M, McClain J, Casey G (1990) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlordane, and DDTs in selected fish and shellfish from New Jersey waters, 1986–1987: Results from New Jersey’s Toxics in Biota Monitoring Program. NJ Dept of Environ Protection, Trenton. Available from
  9. Hebert CE, Keenleyside KA (1995) To normalize or not to normalize? Fat is the question. Environ Toxicol Chem 14:801–807Google Scholar
  10. Irgolic KJ (1992) Arsenic. In: Hazardous metals in the environment. Stoeppler M (ed) Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  11. Kannan K, Smith RG, Lee RF, et al. (1998) Distribution of total mercury and methyl mercury in water, sediment, and fish from South Florida estuaries. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 34:109–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. King RS, Beaman JR, Whigham DF, Hines AH, Baker ME, Weller DE (2004) Watershed land use is strongly linked to PCBs in white perch in Chesapeake Bay subestuaries. Environ Sci Technol 38:6546–6552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Linkov I, Ames MR, Crouch EA, Satterstrom FK (2005) Uncertainty in octanol–water partition coefficient: implications for risk assessment and remedial costs. Environ Sci Technol 39:6917–6922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mason RP (2004) Methylmercury concentrations in fish from tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Report CDWP-MANTA-AD-04-1Google Scholar
  15. Mason RP, Fitzgerald WF, Hurley JP, Hanson AK Jr, Donaghay PL, Sieburth JM (1993) Mercury biogeochemical cycling in a stratified estuary. Limnol Oceanogr 38:1227–1241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McGrath PE (2005). Site fidelity, home range, and daily movements of white perch, Morone americana, and striped bass, Morone saxatilis, in two small tributaries of the York River, Virginia. MS thesis. Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceGoogle Scholar
  17. Rasmussen JB, Rowan DJ, Lean DRS, Carey JH (1990) Food chain structure in Ontario lakes determines PCB levels in lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and other pelagic fish. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 47:2030–2038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Rhinefelder JR, Fisher NS, Luoma SN, Nichols JW, Wang W-X (1998) Trace element trophic transfer in aquatic organisms: a critique of the kinetic model approach. Sci Total Environ 219:117–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Stow CA, Jackson LJ, Amrhein JF (1997) An examination of the PCB:lipid relationship among individual fish. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 54:1031–1038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Suedel BC, Boraczek JA, Peddicord RK, Clifford PA, Dillon TM (1994) Trophic transfer and biomagnification potential of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 136:21–89Google Scholar
  21. Swackhamer DL (1987) Quality assurance plan for Green Bay mass balance study: PCBs and dieldrin. US Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program Office; Chicago, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  22. US EPA (1999a) Guidance for assessing chemical contaminant data for use in fish advisories. Vol. 2. Risk assessment and fish consumption limits, 3rd ed. EPA 823-B-99-008. US EPA, Office of Water, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  23. US EPA (1999b) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) update: Impact on fish advisories. EPA-823-F-99-019. US EPA, Office of Water, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  24. US EPA (1999c) Mercury update: impact on fish advisories. EPA-823-F-99-019. US EPA, Office of Water, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  25. US EPA (2000) Guidance for assessing chemical contamination data for use in fish advisories. Vol. 2. Risk assessment and fish consumption limits, 3rd ed. EPA 823-B-00-008. Office of Water, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. US EPA (2001) Mercury update: Impact on fish advisories. EPA-823-F-01-011. US EPA, Office of Water, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  27. US FDA (1993) National Shellfish Sanitation Program. Guide for the control of molluscan shellfish . US Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  28. Weis JS (2005) Diet and food web support of the white perch, Morone americana, in the Hackensack Meadowlands of New Jersey. Environ Biol Fish 74:109–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Weis P, Weis JS, Bogden JD (1986) Effects of environmental factors on release of mercury from Berry’s Creek (New Jersey) sediments and its uptake by killifish Fundulus heteroclitus. Environ Pollut A 40:303–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RadiologyUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, N. J. Medical SchoolNewarkUSA
  2. 2.School of Science and HealthPhiladelphia UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Patrick Center for Environmental ResearchAcademy of Natural SciencesPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations