Significance of toxaphene in Great Lakes fish consumption advisories

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Journal of Great Lakes Research





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Fish consumption advisories have been issued for the Great Lakes generally based on the most restrictive contaminant. For the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, toxaphene causes minor restrictions only in Lake Superior, i.e., 3% of the total (restrictive + unrestrictive) advisories issued. However, the significance of the hazard posed by toxaphene in fish is not clear since more restrictive advisories due to other priority contaminants may be masking the less restrictive advisories. We simulated fish consumption advisories for the Toxaphene-only scenario by neglecting the presence of contaminants other than toxaphene, and compared with the issued advisories as well as with the published simulated Mercury-only scenario. Restrictive advisories under the Toxaphene-only scenario compared to the issued toxaphene related advisories would increase from 3 % to 14 %, < 1 % to 4 %, and 0 % to 2 % for Lakes Superior, Huron and Ontario, respectively, and remain at 0 % for Lake Erie. For Lake Superior, most of the restrictive Toxaphene-only advisories would be for fatty fish. Overall, the Toxaphene-only advisories would be significantly less restrictive compared to the issued advisories, and also generally less restrictive compared to the Mercury-only scenario. These results suggest that toxaphene is less of a concern than PCBs (including dioxin-like PCBs), dioxins–furans and mercury from the perspective of health risk to humans consuming Great Lakes fish; elevated toxaphene is mainly a concern for human consumers of Lake Superior fatty fish. Our results suggest that the routine monitoring of toxaphene in other Canadian waters of the Great Lakes and Lake Superior lean/pan fish could be discontinued.