NOAA scientists have released a 20-year study showing that environmental laws enacted in the 1970s are having a positive effect on reducing overall contaminant levels in coastal waters of the U.S. However, the report points to continuing concerns with elevated levels of metals and organic contaminants found near urban and industrial areas of the coasts.
"It's interesting to note that pesticides, such as DDT, and industrial chemicals, such as PCBs, show significant decreasing trends around the nation, but similar trends were not found for trace metals," said Gunnar Lauenstein, manager of the NOAA Mussel Watch program. "What is of concern is that there are contaminants that continue to be problematic, including oil-related compounds from motor vehicles and shipping activities."
The report, "NOAA National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program: An Assessment of Two Decades of Contaminant Monitoring in the Nation's Coastal Zone from 1986-2005," is the first that presents national, regional, and local findings in a quick reference format, suitable for use by policymakers, scientists, resource managers and the public. The findings are the result of monitoring efforts that analyze 140 different chemicals in U.S. coastal and estuarine areas, including the Great Lakes.
"We need to ensure the safety of our coastal waters for the rich resources they provide," says John H. Dunnigan, NOAA assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service. "This program shows that although our coasts are under tremendous pressure, policymakers and the public are able to work together to produce positive results."
Significant findings from this report include the following:
The NOAA Mussel Watch Program also quantifies contaminants that are still entering the nation's waters and two major groups raise concern:
NOAA's Mussel Watch Program, founded in 1986, is the nation's longest continuous national contaminant-monitoring program in U.S. coastal waters. The program keeps collected tissue samples frozen so that overlooked or newly emerging contaminants can be retroactively analyzed, as is currently being done with flame retardants.
"The Mussel Watch Program 20-year assessment is a concise and informative review of contaminant monitoring in the nation's coastal waters," said Jack Schwartz with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries. "This report should well serve readers who may not necessarily be conversant with scientific literature on contaminant monitoring and fate and effects."
The report is available online at http://NSandT.noaa.gov
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