Bioaccumulative Toxics in Native American Shellfish

EPA Grant Number: R829467
Title: Bioaccumulative Toxics in Native American Shellfish
Investigators: Basabe, Felix Anthony
Institution: Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: March 15, 2002 through March 14, 2006 (Extended to August 28, 2006)
Project Amount: $1,170,389
RFA: Environmental Justice: Partnerships for Communication (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Climate Change , Tribal Environmental Health Research , Environmental Justice , Human Health


The two-part central hypothesis states that Swinomish people are exposed to low level, chronic bioaccumulative toxics when participating in subsistence consumption of shellfish in traditional harvesting areas, and this exposure contributes to the high incidences of health related problems on the Reservation. The two primary objectives of the project are 1- To determine the type and concentrations of bioaccumulative toxics present in shellfish, and 2- to determine what if any connections exist between shellfish toxics and the health of the Swinomish people. Secondary objectives include effective and culturally appropriate communication of identified health risks to the Swinomish community and nearby tribes who also participate in subsistence shellfish harvesting in order to develop and implement a mitigation measures to reduce health risks from shellfish consumption.

This project will complement other ongoing funded projects including the paralytic shellfish poison monitoring program, fresh and marine water quality monitoring programs, ambient air quality program, EPA non-point source pollution 319 program, and the Swinomish indoor air quality/medical clinic health monitoring program.


Twenty-one shellfish harvest areas, commonly used by the Swinomish Tribal Community, were selected for shellfish and sediment sampling sites. Sediments, littleneck clams (Prototheca staminea), Japanese oysters (Crassostrea gigas) and Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister) will be sampled at each site. The Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team's "Recommended Guidelines for Sampling Marine Sediment, Water Column, and Tissue in Puget Sound" will be used for sample collections. Sediment and shellfish tissue samples will be sent to the Washington State Department of Ecology's Manchester Laboratory for analysis. All of the samples will be analyzed for 49 polyaromatic hydrocarbons, 10 polychloronated dibenzofurans, 7 polychloronated dibenzo-p-dioxins, 7 polychloronated biphenyls, and 7 heavy metals. EPA reference analytical methods will be used for all of the sample analysis. Using Native American shellfish consumption rates for the Puget Sound will be used to determine any connection between the calculated health risks from the toxics and prevalent health issues on the Swinomish Reservation. Health risks will be determined by the Swinomish medical clinicians, the project advisory board, an epidemiologist, and EPA's Guidance For Assessing Chemical Contaminant Data for Use in Fish Advisories. Culturally appropriate methods will be used to communicate the health risk to the Swinomish Tribal Community.

Expected Results:

Generally the results of this project will help improve the health of the Swinomish Tribal Community. Specifically, this project will identify contaminated shellfish areas and with appropriate communication reduce the risk associated with subsistence harvest of these shellfish beds. Long term risk assessment will have to include the identification of the contaminant sources and reduction of toxic emissions. Eventually, risk management will be used to identify the high risk harvest sites and offer the tribe an alternative in order to reduce the health risks from shellfish toxics. The information from this project will be useful to other tribes in the north Puget Sound.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 30 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

littleneck clams, Prototheca staminea, Japanese oysters Crassostrea gigas, Dungeness crabs, Cancer magister, Swinomish, Native American, bioaccumulation, shellfish, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polychloronated dibenzofurans, polychloronated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychloronated biphenyls, heavy metals,, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Health, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Health Risk Assessment, environmental justice, Risk Assessments, Ecological Risk Assessment, EPCRA, Social Science, hazardous environmental exposures, partnerships, public health intervention, education, environmental risks, PAH, cultural differences, human exposure, PCB, community outreach, environmental toxicants, intervention strategies, native americans, dietary exposure, community based intervention, tribal communities, exposure assessment, fish-borne toxicants, heavy metals, human health risk, community support

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002
  • 2003
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005
  • Final Report