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September 29, 2006

Contact: Daniel Parry
(301) 713-3066


In a new report, NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science research has found a continuing decrease in toxic organic chemicals in mollusks, specifically mussels and oysters, collected at more than 250 sites nationwide. The findings, linked to bans and restrictions on the use of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), chlorinated hydrocarbons, tributyltin, and cadmium, was announced in Vol. 62, no. 4 of Marine Environmental Research, a scientific journal.

Produced by the National Status & Trends Program's Mussel Watch Project, the report updates findings published in 1996. The results, based on data through 2003, shows continued decreases in national median concentrations of the chemicals and no increases nationally. The Mussel Watch Project is the longest continuous contaminant monitoring program of U.S. coastal waters. It analyzes chemical and biological contaminant trends in sediment and the tissues of bivalves such as mollusks.

In reviewing data on 17 chemicals at 246 different sites, the NOAA scientists reported 108 increased concentrations and 830 decreased concentrations with a 95 percent level of confidence. Most of the decreases are among organic chemicals, with very few organic chemical increases. According to the report, the relatively few trends for concentrations of metals were evenly split between increases and decreases.

"The overall tendency for chemical contamination to be decreasing is good news for the United States" said John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator, NOAA's National Ocean Service. "These results exemplify the benefits of incorporating long term chemical monitoring into the Integrated Ocean Observing System."

Each of the chlorinated hydrocarbons studied as part of the biennial update is banned or heavily restricted for use in the United States. Researchers noted it was not unexpected that concentrations of these chemicals have declined since the 1996 report. Researchers also stated the only unanticipated result after 10 additional years was that all decreasing trends remained statistically significant.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science conducts research ranging from the study of biomolecular changes due to coral bleaching, to the causes of shellfish disease, to modeling the effects of climate change on fisheries stock assessment. The research is broad, multi-disciplinary, geographically diverse, and involves many partners. The goal of the centers is to improve the science upon which coastal managers make decisions.

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is a network of systems that routinely and continuously provide quality controlled data and information on the current and future status of the oceans and Great Lakes from the global scale.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.


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