Fish tissue quality in the lower Mississippi River and health risks from fish consumption

Karen H. Watanabe, Frank W. Desimone, Arunthavarani Thiyagarajah, William R. Hartley, Albert E. Hindrichs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Between 1990 and 1994, samples of three shellfish species (i.e. blue crab, Callinectes sapidus;crayfish, Procambarus acutis; and river shrimp, Macrobrachium ohionii) and 16 fish species and were collected at six sites along the lower Mississippi River by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Water Resources in coordination with the US Environmental Protection Agency. The fish species included: bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyanellus); blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus); carp (Cyprinus carpio); channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus); cobia (Rachycentron canadum); flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris); freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens); largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides); long nose gar (Lepisosteus osseus); red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus); red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus); smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus); spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus); striped bass (Morone saxatilis); white bass (Morone chrysops); and white crappie (Pomoxis annularis). Organic compound and heavy metal concentrations were measured in 161 composite fish tissue samples where each composite included three to 10 individual fish. Nineteen chemicals, found at measurable levels in sample tissues, were used in calculations of lifetime excess cancer and non-cancer risks due to fish consumption. We calculated: 574 chemical-specific cancer risks; 41 total cancer risks; and 697 margins of exposure based on a consumption rate of one 8-ounce meal per week (0.032 kg/day), a body weight of 70 kg and reported cancer potency factors and reference doses. We identified nine species of concern (blue catfish, carp, channel catfish, cobia, crayfish, flathead catfish, red drum, spotted gar and striped bass) based on total cancer risk greater than 10-4 or margin of exposure greater than 1, and whether or not samples collected in subsequent years resulted in lower risks. The compounds primarily responsible for the elevated risks were aldrin, dieldrin, alpha-benzene hexachloride, gamma-benzene hexachloride, heptachlor epoxide, arsenic and mercury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-126
Number of pages18
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 20 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Fish tissue
  • Health risks
  • Heavy metals
  • Organics
  • Seafood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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