In the fall of 1998, in collaboration with two local fishing clubs and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine began a pilot study of anglers who frequent fishing and crabbing sites in the lower Hudson River and New York Harbor. The purpose of this preliminary "Hudson River Anglers Health Study" was to characterize the fish and shellfish consumption patterns and the body burdens of persistent environment chemicals among these anglers, as well as to better understand the links between fishing behavior, fish consumption, and health risk
The forty-six volunteer study participants were mostly white males, with a mean age of fifty (A. L. Golden, unpublished data). As members of organized fishing clubs, they were presumably better informed than the general population about New York or New Jersey state fishing advisories, with 83 percent reporting some knowledge of the advisories' contents. Nevertheless, their fish consumption practices put them at substantial health risk. Most reported eating local fish or shellfish at least once a month during the previous fishing season, with 48 percent eating at least one locally-caught fish or shellfish meal each week. The data show clear associations between self-reported frequency of consuming locally caught fish and markers of exposure for several environmental contaminants known to have serious health effects. For example, as seen in Table 28.2, eating at least one meal a week of any fish or shellfish was related to higher concentrations of highly chlorinated PCBs, DDT, and mercury. Those who frequently consumed blue crabs showed elevated levels of DDE and highly chlorinated PCB congeners.
The findings of the Hudson River Anglers Study suggest that, despite health advisories, a significant proportion of recreational anglers in the Hudson River Estuary do consume contaminated fish and shellfish from these waters. Those with the highest consumption of fish and shellfish have significantly increased body burdens of environmental toxins. Since the anglers reported often sharing their catch with others, some of their friends and family members also share the health risk along with the food.
The average body burdens of mercury, PCBs, DDT, and DDE measured in the Hudson River Anglers Study are similar to those found for male fish eaters in other recent reports from the Great Lakes region (Anderson et al., 1998.; Falk et al., 1999; Hanrahanetal., 1999) and northern New York State (Fitzgerald et al., 1999). The long-term and subclinical impact of exposures at these levels are just beginning to be addressed in longitudinal studies designed to address the health effects that have been found with higher occupational exposures.
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