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Gulf oil spill still a threat to seafood, JAMA study indicates

 
 
Reply Tue 17 Aug, 2010 12:02 pm
August 17, 2010
Gulf oil spill still a threat to seafood, JAMA study indicates
By Fred Tasker | The Miami Herald

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill still poses threats to human health and seafood safety, according to a study published Monday by the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association.

The report comes two days after President Obama and members of his family swam in the Gulf at Panama City Beach and ate fish caught there, and hours after this year's commercial shrimping season officially kicked off along the Louisiana coast.

Federal officials disputed the new report and said ongoing testing is aggressive and sufficient to protect public health.

In the short term, study co-author Gina Solomon voiced greatest concern for shrimp, oysters, crabs and other invertebrates she says are have difficulty clearing their systems of dangerous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) similar to those found in cigarette smoke and soot. Solomon is an MD and public health expert in the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

In the longer term, she expressed worries about big fin fish such as tuna, swordfish and mackerel, saying levels of mercury from the oil might slowly increase over time by being consumed by fish lower in the food chain and becoming concentrating in the larger fish.

As time goes on, she said, doctors may be warning pregnant women and children to strictly limit the amount of such fish they eat. Some of the fish had relatively high levels of mercury even before the oil spill, she said.

"It's like iron filings to a magnet," she said. "Several years from now the concentration will go up in fish at the top of the food chain -- tuna, mackerel, swordfish."

Solomon said she based her new report on studies from past oil spills including the Exxon Valdez event off Alaska in 1989, plus her own monitoring of current Gulf data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. She also is a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which calls itself "the nation's most effective environmental action group." Solomon's co-author is Sarah Janssen, MD, a staff scientist with the NRDC.

FDA officials disagreed with Solomon's fears about PAHs.

"We don't agree that's currently a problem,'' said Vicki Seyfert-Margolis, from the office of the chief scientist of the FDA. She said federal officials have a "mussel watch'' program to test for such contamination in all shellfish, and so far it has not found any problems.

As each Gulf area is reopened for fin fish harvest, she said, officials are testing shellfish separately, approving various species only as studies are completed, she said.

For example, shrimp harvesting was reopened off Pensacola on Monday, she said.

Crabs and oysters take longer to test and clear because people eat the entire animal including the liver, where toxins can accumulate, while almost no one eats the liver of a fish, she said.

Seyfert-Margolis agreed that testing must continue for fin fish to make sure toxins don't build up in the future. Such testing will begin if similar early problems come up in the mussel-watch program, she said.

"We have the ability to test it in fin fish. We can study it as long as necessary,'' she said.

Concerning the human effects of the oil spill, Solomon says: "The good news is that the levels of benzene, the most dangerous chemical from oil, have been quite low. It's not likely there's a long-term risk from inhaled vapors for coastal residents.''

She went on: "For oil workers it might be a different story. The people out there deploying boom and burning the oil have been exposed to higher levels of vapor.''

She decried the lack of studies of long-term health effects of past spills such as the Exxon Valdez accident. But she said that on Tuesday the National Institutes of Health will announce a long-term health study of 20,000 Gulf workers and residents.

She pointed to a study of 858 cleanup workers in the 2002 oil spill by the tanker Prestige off the coast of Spain that found DNA damage, although Spanish health officials have said it was not permanent.

On Aug. 10, another 5,144 square miles of Gulf waters were reopened to commerecial and recreational finfish fishing by NOAA, the EPA and the FDA. It reduced the part of the Gulf still closed to 22 percent, from a peak of 37 percent.

NOAA said chemical analysis of 153 fin fish including grouper, snapper, tuna and mahi mahi found contaminants ``well below the levels of concern.'' Also, fish and shellfish harvested from areas unaffected by the closures are considered safe to eat, the FDA said.

"We are confident that Gulf fish from this area is safe to eat,'' said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco at the time.

Over the weekend, FDA tests also cleared shrimp from Louisiana's Barataria Bay, making possible the opening of shrimping season there, the Associated Press said. Crabs and oysters, the slowest to metabolize toxins, have not yet been cleared. NOAA will continue sampling, including at dockside.

"We're not going anywhere,'' said Lubchenco.

"I'm not disputing the reopenings,'' Solomon said. ``Many areas of the Gulf are quite likely safe for fishing. But what's true now might change in the future.''

Ronald Kendall, chairman of Texas Tech University's Department of Environmental Toxicology, agreed that PAHs can be a problem.

"They can accumulate in shellfish, and some can be carcinogenic. On the other hand, they are testing a lot for them.''

Kendall tested a small sample of shellfish from the Louisiana coast with gas chromatography on Monday for the ABC News program Good Morning America and said he found all to be clean.

But he added that, while oysters are stationary, shrimp can move about. And so can oil.

"So we must continue to monitor this very closely. Shellfish may be clear now, but in two months maybe not, depending on how the oil moves. You can't just test once and stop. There's a lot of oil in the Gulf, and we don't know where it all is.''

Kendall also agreed that toxins could build up in large fin fish.

"That's another reason we need to keep testing.'' Asked about the Obamas swimming and eating fish in Panama City, Solomon said: ``There are areas along the Gulf Coast that are safe for swimming and fishing. They were in one area that's considered safe. But people all across the Gulf Coast shouldn't assume that if it's safe where the president swam, it's safe where they live.''

People should avoid waters with any trace of oil, she said.

"Use your own eyes. If you see tar balls, oily sheen, don't go in the water. If you're eating fish, make sure they come from an area that's open for fishing and you get it from a reputable fish market or restaurant. If there's any oily smell, don't eat it.''

In her report, Solomon cites a 2002 study in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Environmental Research of the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill that concluded: "Our data show that 10 years after the spill, nearshore fishes within the original spill zone were still exposed to residual hydrocarbons. All biomarkers [for contaminants] were elevated in fish collected from sites originally oiled, in comparison to fish from unoiled sites.''

Lead author of the Exxon Valdez study was Stephen Jewett of the School of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences at University of Alaska.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/08/17/99261/gulf-oil-spill-still-a-threat.html#ixzz0wt59oFug
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OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Aug, 2010 12:42 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,

The author is only venting her fears and blindly speculating about the future.
There is nothing scientific about this "report."
That emoting is a disgrace to the Journal.




David
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Aug, 2010 01:25 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
top predators will depurate the PAHs from theor fat just like the striped bass have done with PCBs in the Hudson.

The water column is being sampled and so are the catches. GC?MS machines are quite sophisticated and can tell absorbed and adsorbed PAHs from samples.

Ive been looking at sampling protocols on the deep web and have found most all of them very very tight.
I actually agree with DAVE ( Shocked ). This is journalistic hyperbole. (cf Clemensian Bullshit)
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Aug, 2010 02:48 pm
@farmerman,
I will only note that the OP is taken from a blog of the NRDC.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Aug, 2010 05:08 pm
@dyslexia,
Well, theyve been known to be wrong a few times. What resource are they defending here? The shrimp , oil, or jobs?
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  0  
Reply Wed 18 Aug, 2010 07:16 am
@farmerman,
August 17, 2010
Georgia scientists dispute Obama claim that most oil is gone
By Curtis Morgan | McClatchy Newspapers

A team of University of Georgia scientists on Tuesday disputed the Obama administration's claim, made two weeks ago, that most of the oil spewed from BP's Deepwater Horizon well is either gone or widely dispersed.

Far from gone or dispersed, the scientists said, 70 to 79 percent of the more than 4 million barrels of oil that escaped into the Gulf of Mexico remains in the water, posing real but still undetermined risks.

"The idea that 75 percent of the oil is gone and of no concern for the environment

is just absolutely incorrect," said Charles Hopkinson, a director of Georgia Sea Grant

and marine science professor at the University of Georgia, who co-authored the report.

The Georgia report blamed the media for "inaccurate and misleading'' interpretation of a federal analysis released Aug. 2, but its authors, in a teleconference, declined to address questions about whether an upbeat spin by the Obama administration had shaped coverage.

The federal report, produced by government and independent scientists, estimated that the "vast majority'' of the 4.9 million barrels of crude released into the Gulf had evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered by BP from the wellhead, dispersed naturally or by chemicals into drops likely to be rapidly consumed by microbes. Only 26 percent of "residual'' oil remained largely in the form of sheen or tarballs, the federal report found — still a volume four times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

In announcing the data, Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cautioned that the vast amount of oil would cause impacts for years but still struck a glass-half-full tone echoed by other Obama aides.

"At least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system, and most of the remainder is degrading rapidly or is being removed from the beaches," she said at a White House conference.

Two calculations explain the bulk of the difference in the Georgia report, produced by Hopkinson with four colleagues at the University of Georgia and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

In the first, the Georgia scientists said the government had erred by including in its totals 800,000-plus barrels of oil that BP captured from the well after it had fitted a sealing cap on the gusher — 17 percent of the well's estimated flow. The Georgia scientists argued that that oil had never actually "spilled'' into the Gulf, so including it to determine the percentage of oil no longer in the Gulf gave an incorrect impression.

More significantly, the report also dramatically reduced the amount of oil estimated to have evaporated, to 7 to 12 percent from the federal study's 25 percent.

The federal government's evaporation estimate was based on a standard accepted by industry experts and researchers for light sweet crude in the warm Gulf. But Hopkinson argued that the percentage is invalid because much of the oil remains deep beneath the surface, trapped under dense temperature and salinity layers that would dramatically limit evaporation.

"My suspicion is that a large fraction of this oil is still in the system," said Samantha Joye, a UGA marine scientist who in May was the first researcher to detect massive deep sea "plumes'' of oil droplets spreading from the well. "Whether it's floating around or down in the bottom, we still don't know."

Another report released Tuesday by University of South Florida researchers found evidence of droplets spreading eastward up the continental shelf and settling into the DeSoto Canyon, a much shallower area considered a prime spawning spot for fish. The team reported finding oil at potentially toxic concentrations for some organisms in sediment taken from 900 feet to as shallow as 215 feet. BP's well is 5,000 feet deep.

Most analysis and research to date, Georgia's Joye said, also has ignored methane, which accounted for as much as a third of the overall flow. Methane levels were 10,000 to 100,000 times greater than normal in some deep sea pockets, she said. At such levels, it could take a year for the dissolved methane to dissipate, she said.

In an email statement Tuesday, NOAA spokesman Justin Kenney defended the official analysis as ''validated by federal and independent scientific experts." By omitting oil recovered directly from the well, he said, the Georgia researchers had fundamentally changed the baseline calculation, making it impossible to compare the two estimates.

He also dismissed critics who have contended the White House was eager to put the environmental disaster in its rearview mirror. NOAA and its contributing independent scientists, he said, "have been clear that oil and its remnants left in the water represent a potential threat."

The agency intended to continue to "rigorously monitor, test and assess short- and long-term ramifications," he added.

Joye stressed that the Georgia team wasn't implying that there were toxic "rivers of oil'' submerged in the Gulf. Oil is degrading every day, she said.

There are, however, still vast volumes of crude oil in the water column, widely dispersed and breaking down into multiple compounds whose impact on the environment won't be understood for years, she said.

ON THE WEB

Read the report. http://shell.windows.com/fileassoc/0409/xml/redir.asp?Ext=pdf

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/08/17/99316/georgia-scientists-dispute-obama.html#ixzz0wxlS0wnF
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Aug, 2010 05:38 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
I think the best advice is to keep monitoring. Whoever makes these sweeping predictions (either way) may be surprised at the real oucome.

BActerial uptake and breakdown of crude is and in situ oxidation, will ,imho, change the pH of the local area of the gulf until more salt dissociates and buffers it all.

Ive seen what bacteria and radiolarians can do to break the crude down into biomass from all the fatty acids. (There is a need to evaporate the Volatile fraction)
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Aug, 2010 05:14 am
@farmerman,
Did u find somewhere good to eat yesterday ?

U were near Restaurant Row, on 46th Street.





David
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Aug, 2010 04:15 am
@OmSigDAVID,
I found a couple of fairly good small Northern Italian Restaurants and a REAALLLY good Thai reataurannt.
I stayed at the Plaza instead of the Marriott because I could walk to my appointment which was on 1585 Broaday.
I swore I saw Larry David. (Does he live in NY?)

My real adventures were to the Fountain Pen Hospitral for some emergency surgery on a Conklin pen.

(I love writing with a pen more than with a keyboard, my mistakes and rrors in standard word structure are fewer and I find that I think about as fast as I can write with the pen, whereas, when Im on a keyborad I have oral diarrhea).

see what I mean?
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Aug, 2010 04:51 am
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:
I found a couple of fairly good small Northern Italian Restaurants and a REAALLLY good Thai reataurannt.
I stayed at the Plaza instead of the Marriott because I could walk to my appointment which was on 1585 Broaday.
I swore I saw Larry David. (Does he live in NY?)
Yes; in a hotel near there that is federally subsidized and reserved for showfolk.
Indications r that he will not abandon it.
It has a big swimming pool.





farmerman wrote:
My real adventures were to the Fountain Pen Hospitral for some emergency surgery on a Conklin pen.

(I love writing with a pen more than with a keyboard, my mistakes and rrors in standard word structure are fewer
and I find that I think about as fast as I can write with the pen, whereas, when Im on a keyborad I have oral diarrhea).

see what I mean?
Did the pen survive the surgery?
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