Lake Eerie's Toxic Fish

Researchers find chemical pollutants in carp of eastern Lake Erie

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Findings from a study, which appears in the journal Chemosphere, show that carp from eastern Lake Erie contain high amounts of two industrial pollutants.

Adding to the body of research on environmental degradation of the Great Lakes, researchers from the University at Buffalo and other Upstate New York institutions found elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in eastern Lake Eerie carp, a common sportfish.

PCBs are manmade compounds that were once used to make products such as plastics, adhesives, motor oils, and paints. PBDEs, which are used as flame-retardants, are found in furniture, personal computers, and costumer electronics among other household items. Both PCBs and PBDEs can affect the normal functions of the endocrine system, causing hormone irregularities that can have adverse affects on reproduction, response to stress, growth, and development.

For the study, the team of researchers analyzed 18 carp from the eastern part of Lake Erie (a section of the lake likely impacted by the city of Buffalo, NY). They found both PCBs and PBDEs in all of the specimens. However, the detected levels of PBDEs were relatively low. The scientists found much higher concentrations of PCBs.

According to Diana Aga, a University at Buffalo chemistry professor and one of the study's authors, past studies have evaluated concentrations of contaminants in fish from other parts of Lake Erie and other Great Lakes. Aga and colleagues documented contaminants in the eastern section of the lake in order to compare it to other sections and to provide a reference for further study. Future researchers will be able to see if clean-up efforts (if they occur) alter the contaminant levels in fish over time.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 24, 2011
Last Updated:
January 25, 2011