Study Finds PAHs in Mississippi Seafood below Levels of Concern

Scientists studying oil impacts on fish, shrimp, crab, and oysters from coastal Mississippi waters one year post-spill found PAH levels were below Levels of Concern (LOC) established jointly by NOAA/FDA/Gulf Coast states by “at least 2 orders of magnitude.”

They also found that PAH levels were similar to those found in “commonly consumed processed foods on the market.” The team published their findings in the April 2012 edition of Environmental Science and Technology: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Mississippi seafood from areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory residue manager and paper co-author Christina Childers analyzes data from seafood samples for PAH contamination using the Agilent 7000B Triple Quadrupole GC/MS/MS system. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State University)

Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory residue manager and paper co-author Christina Childers analyzes data from seafood samples for PAH contamination using the Agilent 7000B Triple Quadrupole GC/MS/MS system. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State University)

Researchers collected 278 seafood samples on a weekly basis from May to October 2010 and then monthly thereafter until August 2011. Samples came from fishing grounds in Mississippi, including bays, that were closed by the State based on oil observations. Oyster samples came from locations that were part of the NOAA Mussel Watch program. For comparison, the team randomly obtained processed meats and seafood from grocery stores and restaurants in northeast Mississippi which tests for PAH levels showed were below values of FDA public health LOC. The team used an Agilent 7000B Triple Quadrupole GC/MS/MS system to measure individual PAH components in food and seafood samples.  Results showed higher levels of PAHs in samples collected in the early part of the study and then declined in later months; however, the initial levels were still lower than those found in their comparison samples of processed food.  Results for oysters showed PAH levels were “similar to even less” then the “average 10-year nationwide data” from the NOAA Mussel Watch program.

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