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