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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
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
In May 1999, a resident of Isla de Vieques (Vieques), Puerto Rico, requested (petitioned) the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to determine whether hazardous substances from the detonation of munitions at the United States Navy (Navy) bombing range on the island pose a public health threat. In August 1999, ATSDR conducted an initial site visit to Vieques to meet with the petitioner, tour the island and bombing range, and gather available environmental data. As a result of this site visit, ATSDR accepted the petition and since has been investigating public health concerns related to the Navy's training activities on Vieques.
ATSDR is responding to this petition in a series of public health assessments (PHAs). PHAs examine chemicals that enter the environment, how the chemicals move through the environment, and the levels of chemicals that residents might encounter. ATSDR then uses this information to determine whether residents are exposed to levels of contamination that might cause health problems.
This PHA addresses the public health implications from eating fish and shellfish from the coastal waters and near shore land of Vieques. The fish and shellfish were analyzed for explosives compounds and heavy metals. Explosives compounds are not naturally occurring in fish and shellfish. Whereas, heavy metals are commonly detected in fish and shellfish tissue because seafood tends to accumulate metals that are naturally present in the environment (ATSDR 1999a; ATSDR 2000a; EPA 2001a). Therefore, eating fish can be a major source of one's exposure to metals. In fact, many states have issued advisories against eating fish or shellfish because of the metal content (EPA 2000). ATSDR focused this evaluation on the types of fish and shellfish that the community commonly catches and consumes (based on research by Universidad Metropolitana (Caro et al. 2000), discussions with the petitioner and residents of Vieques, and information provided in the Vieques Special Commission Report (Government of Puerto Rico 1999 as cited in Navy 2000b)).