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In The News: Aroclors, Advisories, and Alleged Action

Happy Tuesday, readers! The articles we’re going to cover in today’s news blurb is eerily similar to those we went over last week regarding health advisories and The Great Lakes. The first article being mentioned today comes on the heels of a new study spearheaded by Ron Hites, a professor at Indiana University.

Hites’s study claims to have found that airborne levels of a particular PCB congener, known as PCB-11, have not declined since 2004. The study collected nearly 2,000 samples of atmospheric PCBs from 2004 to 2015 and allowed for variables in concentration due to human population, seasonal effects on weather and climate, and “long-term temporal changes.” In his research, Hites claims that PCB-11 may be a byproduct of Aroclors manufactured for coloring in yellow pigments and the ways in which these pigments are produced. Hites is investigating a possible connection between steady levels of PCB-11 and the manufacturing of yellow pigments used for paint on roadways.

Yellow pigment, such as that used in roadway paint, is theorized to be a source of PCB-11 in Hites’s research.

While there is undoubtedly more research to be done on a possible connection between levels of PCB-11 and the production of yellow pigments, the notion of a potential link could cause a future blowback if it is found that airborne PCB-11 congeners are not only a byproduct of yellow pigment production, but also if these toxins are able to become atmospheric years after they are placed on our roads and highways. Hites’s research is ongoing and focusing on how and where PCB-11 is still leaking into our environment.

Looking further west, the Oregon Health Authority last week updated a health advisory from 2004 on eating fish from waters around Portland Harbor and the Lower Willamette River – which was not included in the original 2004 advisory. Updates to the advisory warn against the eating of, “bass, carp, brown bullhead, black crappie, and all other resident fish, as well as crayfish, clams, and mussels found within the Lower Willamette River.”

The lowered amount of meals including clams and mussels are designated tribal members in the region, as it is illegal for non-tribal citizens to collect, harvest, or otherwise possess freshwater shellfish.

OHA’s updated health advisory on contaminated species of fish and shellfish include a revised number of recommended meals per month of affected species.

David Farrer, Ph. D., of the Oregon Health Authority, said that, “salmon, steelhead, and other migratory fish” are still safe to eat. This is due to their migratory nature which are less likely to accumulate PCBs from resident fish, such as bass or carp, in the region. Officials including EPA and Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality anticipate that PCB concentration levels in regional fish species will spike at both the beginning and conclusion of environmental cleanup activities in and around Portland Harbor and the Willamette River due to resuspension of PCBs in sediment. One factor of cleanup activities in the area include the continued sampling of fish tissues to test for PCB contamination levels.

Another pressing PCB matter from last week’s news comes to us from Elmira, New York. Walter Hang, President of Toxics Targeting, gave a presentation last week at the Elmira Holiday Inn expressing his concern on toxic contamination at and around Elmira High School.

Toxics Targeting offers database services for New York citizens to research environmental contamination locations and issues at hundreds of thousands of locations in the state. They also offer Phase 1 Environmental Database Reports for new homeowners or property purchasers which offer detailed analyses of contamination at or around properties in New York.

Walter Hang, President of Toxics Targeting, gives a presentation to citizens of Elmira, NY.

Hang’s concern during his presentation appeared to be mirrored by citizens of Elmira who have asked NYDEC to reevaluate contamination levels and cleanup efforts at the site of the community’s high school. “The entire site has to be remediated because the children are so young,” said Hang, “if they get exposed to these toxins, its in their bodies for the rest of their lives.” Hang stated that several portions of land on which Elmira High School is located, including the track and a parking lot, have tested positive for toxic contamination yet remain to be addressed in cleanup efforts.

NYDEC responded to citizens’ concerns about contamination at the school and announced they will be holding a meeting in early May to discuss ongoing remediation efforts at and around Elmira High School.

And that’s all for this week, folks! Remember to check back into our blog every Tuesday as we cover environmental news highlights from the previous week that may not get much screen time on mainstream outlets and media. See you next time!

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For more information about the organizations mentioned in this post, please click the following links:

Oregon Health Authority

Toxics Targeting


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