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Public Health Assessment
Fish and Shellfish Evaluation,
Isla de Vieques Bombing Range,
Vieques, Puerto Rico

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June 27, 2003
Prepared by:

Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

VIII. Conclusions

Through its sampling program and public health evaluation, ATSDR has drawn the following conclusions regarding the fish and shellfish of Vieques:

  • ATSDR concludes that exposures to contaminants in fish and shellfish are not at levels expected to cause adverse health effects and thus the site does not pose a public health hazard. Because exposure is still possible to these low levels, ATSDR has categorized consumption of fish and shellfish as "no apparent public health hazard".
  • During the July 2001 sampling, the appearance and general health of the reefs at all the sampling locations were noted. Although no quantitative data were collected, it was noted that all sample locations appeared to support diverse, healthy populations of marine organisms and that all reefs were in good condition.
  • Field personnel briefly examined each fish and shellfish sample and reported that with very few exceptions, the organisms collected appeared to be healthy.
  • Several metals were detected in some of the fish and shellfish from Vieques. However, the concentrations that were present were too low to be of health concern.
  • Because individual metals in individual species varied from location to location, ATSDR evaluated whether eating fish or shellfish from any specific location would cause people to experience adverse health effects. The concentrations that were present at each location were too low to be of health concern.
  • Universidad Metropolitana reported that yellowtail snapper was the most commonly consumed species of fish (Caro et al. 2000). In addition, several Vieques fishermen and residents indicated to ATSDR that snapper was more commonly sought after, caught, and consumed than any other species of fish. Therefore, ATSDR evaluated the specific scenario of people eating snapper every day and concluded that the chemical concentrations that were present in snapper were too low to be of health concern.
  • Community members were concerned about the potential impact on marine biota in the vicinity of the former Killen located to the south of the LIA. Fish and shellfish from around the Killen were collected and analyzed during ATSDR's sampling effort. ATSDR concluded that the chemical concentrations in the fish and shellfish collected from this area were too low to be of health concern.
  • The petitioner specifically requested ATSDR to collect and analyze boxfish (e.g. trunkfish, cowfish) from the fish market. A honeycomb cowfish was purchased for analysis. Based on the concentrations of chemicals detected, consuming cowfish with the levels detected would not be expected to result in harmful health effects.


 
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