A study funded by the State Water Resources Control Board found mercury in PCBs in several species of fish along the coast of California. Some of the levels detected were higher than thresholds set by the state, although none of these levels were high enough to warrant the modification of guidelines regarding fish consumption.
According to a feature on The Orange County Register, the study is part of an effort to observe fish in the ocean and in inland waters. It involved sampling 42 coastal sites in 2009, 27 of which were located in Southern California.
The study classified the fish into several categories, based on the levels of mercury detected. The categories included “one serving per week” and “no consumption”. Average concentrations in the tested fish from Ventura to San Mateo Point south of San Clemente placed them in the “one serving per week category.” Around 5 percent of the samples were placed in the “no consumption category,” mostly in sharks.
Samples for the Southern California study included kelp bass, Pacific chub mackerel, white croaker, yellowfin croaker, barred sandbass and spotted sandbass. Spotted sandbass and kelp bass had the highest mercury levels, based on the results of the study.
Majority of the samples fell into the moderate range for mercury and PCBs. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenals) are cancer-causing chemicals, and were usually used in electrical transformers prior to their being banned in 1979.
Ken Schiff, deputy director of the independent science group Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and one of the study authors, shared: “Mercury really hasn’t been measured throughout all of coastal Southern California, especially edible fish… The fact that we’re getting moderate contamination here – that’s a new finding.”