Metal Levels in Fish Captured in Puerto Rico and Estimation of Risk from Fish Consumption

  • Imar Mansilla-Rivera
  • Carlos J. Rodríguez-Sierra


Exposure to metals through fish consumption may represent a health risk, especially for high-fish-consumption populations such as fishing communities in the Jobos Bay and La Parguera areas in Puerto Rico. This study determined levels of As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Hg, Se, and Zn in muscle tissues of fish from the Jobos Bay and La Parguera (reference site) areas and estimated the health risk posed by fish ingestion to local fishermen and their children. Fish collected included S. cavalla (“sierra”; n = 14), M. undulatus (“roncón”; n = 21), L. synagris (“arrayado”; n = 18), and L. analis (“sama”; n = 11) in the Jobos Bay area and S. regalis (sierra; n = 10) and L. synagris (arrayado; n = 8) in La Parguera. Only As and Hg were detected at levels of human health concern. Average As and Hg levels (μg/g, wet wt) in the four species of Jobos Bay were 0.74 and 0.10 for roncón, 0.83 and 0.09 for sama, 1.00 and 0.26 for sierra, and 2.49 and 0.15 for arrayado, respectively. In La Parguera, average As and Hg levels (μg/g, wet wt) were 0.61 and 0.12 for sierra and 1.27 and 0.20 for arrayado, respectively. At both sites, the species with the highest As levels was arrayado, while for Hg, sierra obtained the highest concentrations. A risk estimation using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard exposure factors, and assuming that 10% of total As is the inorganic form and 100% of the total Hg is methyl Hg, predicted adverse health effects (cancer and noncancer) from fish consumption, being higher for children than for adults. However, speciation of As in fish muscle is recommended for better risk estimates. Sierra fish from Jobos Bay triggered the most restricted consumption advisories for Hg noncancer effects, where a child should not consume >1 fish meal (0.1135 kg)/month and adults should not have >3 fish meals (0.227 kg)/month. Fish consumption advisories, particularly for Hg, should be established by the local government to protect the health of susceptible populations such as children and pregnant or childbearing-age women.


Fish Species Fish Consumption Fish Meal Hazard Quotient International Criterion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico (DNER; F-46) and the Sea Grant–UPR Program (R-91-1-03). We are grateful to Epifanio Burgos and Robinson Cruz for fishing assistance. We would also like to thank personnel from DNER and JBNERR for field assistance and logistics. We are indebted to Leslie A. Acevedo-Marín, Carla A. Salgado, and Lourdes Pérez for the metal analyses and laboratory assistance. We also thank Gladys N. Maldonado and Enixy Collado for administrating the fishermen questionnaires. Finally, we are grateful to RCMI (G12RR03051) and the Puerto Rico Cancer Center for providing supplemental funding for this research.


  1. Adams DH, Onorato GV (2005) Mercury concentrations in red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, from estuarine and offshore waters of Florida. Mar Pollut Bull 50:291–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agusa T, Kunito T, Yasunaga G, Iwata H, Subramanian A, Ismail A, Tanabe S (2005) Concentrations of trace elements in marine fish and its risk assessment in Malaysia. Mar Pollut Bull 51:896–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alonso D, Pineda P, Olivero J, González H, Campos N (2000) Mercury levels in muscle of two fish species and sediments from the Cartagena Bay and the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, Colombia. Environ Pollut 109:157–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borak J, Hosgood HD (2007) Seafood arsenic: implications for human risk assessment. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 47:204–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burger J, Gochfeld M (2005) Heavy metals in commercial fish in New Jersey. Environ Res 99:403–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burger J, Gochfeld M (2007) Risk to consumers from mercury in Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) from the Auletians: fish age and size effects. Environ Res 105:276–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burger J, Gochfeld M (2009) Perceptions of the risks and benefits of fish consumption: individual choices to reduce risk and increase health benefits. Environ Res 109:343–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burger J, Cooper K, Gochfeld M (1992) Exposure assessment for heavy metal ingestion from a sport fish in Puerto Rico: estimating risk for local fishermen. J Toxicol Environ Health 36:355–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burger J, Gochfeld M, Jeitner C, Burke S, Stamm T (2007a) Metal levels in flathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon) and great sculpin (Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus) from Adak Island, Alaska: potential risk to predators and fishermen. Environ Res 103:62–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burger J, Gochfeld M, Jeitner C, Burke S, Stamm T, Snigaroff R, Snigaroff D, Patrick R, Weston J (2007b) Mercury levels and potential risk from subsistence foods from the Aleutians. Sci Total Environ 384:93–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burger J, Gochfeld M, Shukla T, Jeitner C, Burke S, Donio M, Shukla S, Snigaroff R, Snigaroff D, Stamm T, Volz C (2007c) Heavy metals in Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus) from the Aleutians: location, age, size, and risk. J Toxicol Environ Health A 70:1897–1911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Díez S, Delgado S, Aguilera I, Astray J, Pérez-Gómez B, Torrent M, Sunyer J, Bayona JM (2009) Prenatal and early childhood exposure to mercury and methylmercury in Spain, a high-fish-consumer country. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 56:615–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DNER (Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico) (2000) Management plan for the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and National and Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  14. Donatuto J, Harper BL (2008) Issues in evaluating fish consumption rates for Native American tribes. Risk Anal 28:1497–1506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Endo T, Haraguchi K, Hotta Y, Hisamichi Y, Lavery S, Dalebout ML, Baker CS (2005) Total mercury, methyl mercury, and selenium levels in the red meat of small cetaceans sold for human consumption in Japan. Environ Sci Technol 39:5703–5708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fabris G, Turoczy NJ, Stagnitti F (2006) Trace metal concentrations in edible tissue of snapper, flathead, lobster, and abalone from coastal waters of Victoria, Australia. Ecotox Environ Safe 63:286–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Froese R, Pauly D (2009) FishBase. version. Accessed July 2009
  18. Goodson G (1976) The many splendored fishes of the Atlantic Coast including the fishes of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  19. Greene R, Crecelius E (2006) Total and inorganic arsenic in Mid-Atlantic marine fish and shellfish and implications for fish advisories. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2:344–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Harris SA, Urton A, Turf E, Monti MM (2009) Fish and shellfish consumption estimates and perceptions of risk in a cohort of occupational and recreational fishers of the Chesapeake Bay. Environ Res 109:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. HC (Health Canada) (2007) Canadian standards for various chemical contaminants in foods, Ottawa, Ontario.
  22. Huang YK, Lin KH, Chen HW, Chang CC, Liu CW, Yang MH, Hsueh YM (2003) Arsenic species contents at aquaculture farm and in farmed mouthbreeder (Oreochromis mossambicus) in blackfoot disease hyperendemic areas. Food Chem Toxicol 41:1491–1500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huang X, Hites RA, Foran JA, Hamilton C, Knuth BA, Schwager SJ, Carpenter DO (2006) Consumption advisories for salmon based on risk of cancer and noncancer health effects. Environ Res 101:263–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) (1998) Arsenic, inorganic (CASRN 7440-38-2). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC.
  25. IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) (2001) Methylmercury (CASRN 22967-92-6). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC.
  26. Leung SY, Kwok CK, Nie XP, Cheung KC, Wong MH (2010) Risk assessment of residual DDTs in freshwater and marine fish cultivated around the Pearl River delta, China. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 58:415–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liao CM, Ling MP (2003) Assessment of human health risks for arsenic bioaccumulation in tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) and large-scale mullet (Liza macrolepis) from blackfoot disease area in Taiwan. Arch Environ Toxicol 45:264–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu J, Goyer RA, Waalker MP (2008) Toxic effects of metals. In: Klaassen CD (ed) Casarrett and Doull’s toxicology. The basic science of poisons. McGraw-Hill, New York, pp 931–979Google Scholar
  29. Mansilla-Rivera I, Salgado-Ramírez CA, Acevedo-Marín LA, Rodríguez-Sierra CJ (2004) Distribution of metals in sport fish tissues of Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Final Report submitted to DRNA, San Juan, PRGoogle Scholar
  30. Martin FD, Patus W (1988) An annotated key to the teleost fishes of Puerto Rico. In: Vivaldi V (ed) Compendio Enciclopédico de los Recursos Naturales de Puerto Rico. Ser. III. Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico, San JuanGoogle Scholar
  31. Moya J, Itkin C, Selevan SG, Rogers JW, Clickner RP (2008) Estimates of fish consumption rates for consumers of bought and self-caught fish in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Sci Total Environ 403:89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Muñoz O, Devesa V, Suñer MA, Vélez D, Montoro R, Urieta I, Macho ML, Jalón M (2000) Total and inorganic arsenic in fresh and processed fish products. J Agric Food Chem 48:4369–4376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Paquin RR, Farley K, Santore RC, Kavvadas CD, Mooney KG, Winfield RP, Wu KB, Di Toro DM (2003) Metals in aquatic systems: a review of exposure, bioaccumulation, and toxicity models. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), Pensacola, pp 61–90Google Scholar
  34. Peshut PJ, Morrison RJ, Brooks BA (2008) Arsenic speciation in marine fish and shellfish from American Samoa. Chemosphere 71:484–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rodríguez-Sierra CJ, Jiménez B (2002) Trace metals in striped mojarra fish (Diapterus plumieri) from Puerto Rico. Mar Pollut Bull 44:1039–1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schoof RA, Yost LJ, Eickhoff J, Crecelius EA, Cragin DW, Meacher DM, Menzel DB (1999) A market basket survey of inorganic arsenic in food. Food Chem Toxicol 37:839–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Summers JK, Paul JF, Robertson A (1995) Monitoring the ecological condition of estuaries in the United States. Toxicol Environ Chem 49:93–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (1989) Risk assessment guidance for Superfund, vol 1. EPA/540/1-89/002. Office of Emergency and Remedial Response, USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  39. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (1992) Test methods for evaluating solid waste, physical/chemical methods, SW-846, 3rd edn. USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  40. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (1997) Exposure factors handbook. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  41. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2000a) Guidance for assessing chemical contaminant data for use in fish advisories, vol 1. 3rd edn. EPA 823-B-00-007. Office of Science and Technology and Office of Water, USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  42. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2000b) Guidance for assessing chemical contaminant data for use in fish advisories, vol 2, 3rd edn. EPA 823-B-00-008. Office of Science and Technology and Office of Water, USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  43. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2001) Mercury update: impact on fish advisories. EPA 823-F-01-011. Office of Water, USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  44. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2009a) 2008 biennial national listing of fish advisories. EPA-823-F-09-007. Office of Science and Technology, USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  45. USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2009b) Guidance for implementing the January 2001 methylmercury water quality criterion. EPA 823-R-09-002. Office of Science and Technology, USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  46. USEPA and USFDA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Food and Drug Administration) (2004) What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish. 2004 EPA and FDA advice for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers and young children. EPA-823-F-04-009.
  47. USFDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) (1993) Guidance document for arsenic in shellfish. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  48. USFDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) (2001) Fish and Fisheries Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, 3rd edn. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Silver Spring, MDGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams RL, Cseh L (2007) A review of dioxins/furans and methyl mercury in fish from the Penobscot river, located near Lincoln, Maine. Toxicol Ind Health 23:147–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yim UH, Hong SH, Shim WJ, Oh JR (2006) Levels of persistent organochlorine contaminants in fish from Korea and their potential health risk. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 48:358–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Imar Mansilla-Rivera
    • 1
  • Carlos J. Rodríguez-Sierra
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health, Graduate School of Public Health, Medical Sciences CampusUniversity of Puerto RicoSan JuanUSA

Personalised recommendations