You are on page 1of 4

Contaminated Sediments From Beachapedia Jump to: navigation, search Much of the following information was taken from a fact

sheet on contaminated se diments prepared by Coast Alliance. Visit the Clean Ocean Action website for mor e detailed information on the problem of contaminated sediments. Contents • 1 What Are Contaminated Sediments? • 2 People, Fish and Wildlife at Risk o 2.1 Human Health Impacts: o 2.2 Fish Impacts: o 2.3 Wildlife Impacts: • 3 Poisoned Sediments Threaten our Economy • 4 What Can Be Done? • 5 References What Are Contaminated Sediments? Pollutants from industry, agriculture and urban runoff make their way through wa ter to the sediments (matter that settles to the bottom of a liquid) in our rive rs, lakes, and the ocean. Sediments contaminated with PCBs, dioxin, pesticides, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other pollutants have been found in every coastal region of the United States. In a 1998 inventory, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified hundreds of problem sites around the country, many of th em located in coastal areas. In fact, every major harbor in the nation suffers f rom moderate to severe sediment contamination, according to the EPA. People, Fish and Wildlife at Risk Human Health Impacts: The contaminants found in sediments have already led to human health problems. P ollutants from poisoned sediments make their way into the food chain, accumulati ng in fish, ducks and other wildlife. Eventually these toxic chemicals wind up o n our dinner plates. • Women who ate fish contaminated with PCBs from sediments in Lake Michigan gave b irth to children with smaller heads, lower birth weights, weaker reflexes, and s lower movements. • People who ate fish from parts of the Fox River in Wisconsin were estimated to h ave increased cancer risks due to high levels of PCBs in the fish. • Dioxin, pesticides and other chemicals disrupt human reproductive functions by m imicking the effects of estrogen. Declines in sperm counts, increased prostate c ancer and smaller sexual organs are some of the associated health effects that c an be triggered from eating fish and wildlife polluted by toxics. Fish Impacts: Many fish populations are healthy and safe to eat, but Native Americans, low-inc ome fishers and others who unknowingly eat fish (especially bottom-dwelling fish ) from waters with polluted sediments are at risk. • Tumors and "fin rot" have been documented in bottom-feeding fish in Puget Sound, Washington and the New York Bight. • Genetic mutations caused by exposure to polluted sediments prompted a fish ban i n parts of southern California. • Two recent United States Geological Survey studies link toxic sediments and cont aminants found in fish with hormonal imbalances in the fish. Wildlife Impacts: Pollution of our waters and the sediments beneath them also harms wildlife. Scie ntists in the Great Lakes have studied the impact of contaminated sediments on w ildlife and their discoveries are disturbing. The following deformities have bee n found in the Great Lakes region:

• Partially formed eyes and brains and missing body parts in young birds; adult bi rds with open stomachs, club feet, stunted growth and crossed bills. • Turtles without tails. • Male birds born with female characteristics. Poisoned Sediments Threaten our Economy Every year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges about 400 million tons of se diments from our nation's rivers, harbors and estuaries, enough to cover a fourlane highway stretching from New York City to Los Angeles with 20 feet of mud. N ot all dredged sediments are contaminated, but testing is revealing significant contamination in many ports and harbors, which need to be dredged to accommodate ship traffic. But dredging sediments that are contaminated can re-suspend pollu tants in the water, further threatening the seafood and tourism industries that depend on healthy fish and clean water. Once mud is dredged, it must be disposed . Contaminated sediments should not be dumped in coastal waters or the Great Lak es. The difficulties of safely managing contaminated sediments makes it unwise t o dredge in some areas. What Can Be Done? • EPA should develop sediment quality criteria and standards. • The EPA should establish guidelines for sediment contamination that protect sens itive species at sensitive life stages. • The need to dredge should be weighed against potential economic costs to the sea food and tourism industries caused by increased pollution released by dredging a nd disposal. In addition, environmental impacts and threats to human health from disposal options should be considered. • Dredging and disposal permits should be linked to strategies for pollution contr ol and prevention. • EPA should not revise ocean dumping regulations to allow untested sediment to be dumped in the ocean or other open waters, or to otherwise weaken the regulation s. • Efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act and other laws that control or prevent con taminated sediments should be opposed. • States should be encouraged to ban open-water dumping of contaminated sediments in their coastal waters. As of September 1, 1997, New Jersey became the first st ate to ban the disposal of contaminated sediments in its ocean waters. Other sta tes should follow New Jersey's example. • Disease Cause Water-borne diseases Bacterial infections Typhoid Cholera Paratyphoid fever Bacillary dysentery Viral infections Infectious Hepatitis (jaundice) Poliomyelitis Protozoal infections Amoebic dysentery • Water-borne diseases are infectious diseases spread primarily through contaminat ed water. Though these diseases are spread either directly or through flies or f ilth, water is the chief medium for spread of these diseases and hence they are termed as water-borne diseases. • Most intestinal (enteric) diseases are infectious and are transmitted through fa ecal waste. Pathogens – which include virus, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic wor ms – are disease-producing agents found in the faeces of infected persons. These d iseases are more prevalent in areas with poor sanitary conditions. These pathoge ns travel through water sources and interfuses directly through persons handling food and water. Since these diseases are highly infectious, extreme care and hy giene should be maintained by people looking after an infected patient. Hepatiti s, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid are the more common water-borne diseases that affect large populations in the tropical regions. • A large number of chemicals that either exist naturally in the land or are added

due to human activity dissolve in the water, thereby contaminating it and leadi ng to various diseases. • Pesticides. The organophosphates and the carbonates present in pesticides affect and damage the nervous system and can cause cancer. Some of the pesticides cont ain carcinogens that exceed recommended levels. They contain chlorides that caus e reproductive and endocrinal damage. • Lead. Lead is hazardous to health as it accumulates in the body and affects the central nervous system. Children and pregnant women are most at risk. • Fluoride. Excess fluorides can cause yellowing of the teeth and damage to the sp inal cord and other crippling diseases. • Nitrates. Drinking water that gets contaminated with nitrates can prove fatal es pecially to infants that drink formula milk as it restricts the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain causing the ‘blue baby’ syndrome. It is also linked to diges tive tract cancers. It causes algae to bloom resulting in eutrophication in surf ace water. • Petrochemicals. Benzene and other petrochemicals can cause cancer even at low ex posure levels. • Chlorinated solvents. These are linked to reproduction disorders and to some can cers. • Arsenic. Arsenic poisoning through water can cause liver and nervous system dama ge, vascular diseases and also skin cancer. • Other heavy metals. –Heavy metals cause damage to the nervous system and the kidne y, and other metabolic disruptions. • Salts. It makes the fresh water unusable for drinking and irrigation purposes. • Exposure to polluted water can cause diarrhoea, skin irritation, respiratory pro blems, and other diseases, depending on the pollutant that is in the water body. Stagnant water and other untreated water provide a habitat for the mosquito and a host of other parasites and insects that cause a large number of diseases esp ecially in the tropical regions. Among these, malaria is undoubtedly the most wi dely distributed and causes most damage to human health. • Minamata: environmental contamination with methyl mercury • In Minamata, Japan, inorganic mercury was used in the industrial production of a cetaldehyde. It was discharged into the nearby bay as waste water and was ingest ed by organisms in the bottom sediments. Fish and other creatures in the sea wer e soon contaminated and eventually residents of this area who consumed the fish suffered from MeHg (methyl mercury) intoxication, later known as the Minamata di sease. The disease was first detected in 1956 but the mercury emissions continue d until 1968. But even after the emission of mercury stopped, the bottom sedimen t of the polluted water contained high levels of this mercury. • Various measures were taken to deal with this disease. Environmental pollution c ontrol, which included cessation of the mercury process; industrial effluent con trol, environmental restoration of the bay; and restrictions on the intake of fi sh from the bay. This apart research and investigative activities were promoted assiduously, and compensation and help was offered by the Japanese Government to all those affected by the disease. • The Minamata disease proved a turning point, towards progress in environment pro tection measures. This experience clearly showed that health and environment con siderations must be integrated into the process of economic and industrial devel opment from an early stage. • • Eating fish caught from rivers polluted with "gender bender" chemicals could inc rease the risk of breast cancer, researchers said yesterday. • Their study found that breast cancer cells multiply when exposed to fish contami nated with the synthetic female hormone oestrogen • Synthetic oestrogen is found in a host of products - including the Pill, paint, pesticides, plastics and food packaging. • Eating fish contaminated with DDTs and PCBs does not make people sick right away . The more contaminated fish you eat, the greater the amount of chemicals that b uild up in your body over time. • Health problems associated with increased exposure to these chemicals include ca

ncer, liver disease and developmental effects, as well as effects on the immune and endocrine systems. During pregnancy and lactation, mothers can pass DDTs and PCBs on to their infants. Because chemicals affect development, children throug h adolescence, elderly people and women of childbearing age are more sensitive t o the harmful chemicals and should be especially careful. Each year, 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from contaminated food. Common culprits include bacteria, parasites and viruses. Symptoms range from mild to s erious. They include • Upset stomach • Abdominal cramps • Nausea and vomiting • Diarrhea • Fever • Dehydration • This article describes a group of different conditions caused by eating contamin ated fish and seafood. The most common of these are Ciguatera poisoning, Scombro id poisoning, and various shellfish poisonings. • This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of a n actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local em ergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-2221222. • Poisonous Ingredient • In Ciguatera poisoning, the poisonous ingredient is ciguatoxin. This is a poison made in small amounts by certain algae and algae-like organisms called dinoflag ellates. Small fish that eat the algae become contaminated. If larger fish eat a lot of the smaller, contaminated fish, the poison can build up to a dangerous l evel, which can make you sick if you eat the fish. Ciguatoxin is “heat-stable." Th at means it doesn’t matter how well you cook your fish, if the fish is contaminate d, you will become poisoned. • In Scombroid poisoning, the poisonous ingredient is histamine and similar substa nces. Normal bacteria on these fish create large amounts of this toxin after the fish dies if it is not immediately refrigerated or frozen. • In shellfish poisoning, the poisonous ingredients are toxins made by algae-like organisms called dinoflagellates, which build up in some types of seafood. There are many different types of shellfish poisoning. The most well known types are paralytic shellfish poisoning, neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, and amnestic shel lfish poisoning. •