Scientists To Examine Harmful Pollutants in Great Lakes Fish

A team of scientists are collaborating on a five-year project to assess accurate levels of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and other harmful chemicals in the fish of the Great Lakes.

"Identifying the concentration levels of harmful pollutants, such as mercury or PCBs, in fresh-water lake fish is necessary for public health officials to develop appropriate and protective fish consumption advisories," said Thomas M. Holsen, professor of civil & environmental engineering at Clarkson University.

The study, being conducted by researchers at Clarkson, the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia and SUNY Oswego is funded by a $1.75-million grant from the Great Lakes Fish Monitoring Program.

"The project will analyze approximately 110 samples per year," said Holsen, who is the principal investigator for the project. "We'll also conduct a broad gas chromatography/mass spectrometry scan to identify currently unmeasured pollutants in the fish. Our findings should yield evidence that the scientific community can use to more accurately assess the risks of contaminants found on the health of the fish population itself and the wildlife that consumes them."

The team of investigators includes: Philip K. Hopke, Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Clarkson; James Pagano, director, Environmental Research Center, Department of Chemistry, SUNY Oswego; and Michael Milligan, professor, Department of Chemistry, SUNY Fredonia.

"The team has expertise in state-of-the-art analytical techniques for bioaccumulative organic chemicals and mercury. Both Mike Milligan and Jim Pagano, have long-term research programs centered on the environmental monitoring and human health aspects of persistent contaminants," Holsen said.

More information on Great Lakes monitoring programs can be found on EPA's Web site at

Thomas M. Holsen:

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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