Disaster in Gulf is Stark Reminder of Links between Oceans and
The real-time videos of oil
spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and daily news feeds from the ongoing disaster
provide stark reminders of how oceans and human health are linked. While much of the focus is on the visible
impact of oil along the coastal marshes and fouling of wildlife there has been
much less attention on the long term effects of the oil diffusing throughout
the ocean ecosystem, and impacts of the dispersants now being used to limiting
Some workers and residents along
the coast have reported headaches, nausea, coughing and throat
irritation. Dr. Gina Solomon,
senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) observed
that: "The risks include acute health effects
from the air pollution from the oil itself. It also includes health effects
from burning the oil contamination of the food chain which
can result in a long-term health concerns." Those most directly at risk are the workers involved
in the clean up.
Melancon from Louisiana reportedly has asked the department of Health and Human
Services to open mobile clinics to treat the fisherman. There is also the
serious threat of contaminated fish and shellfish. The biggest wildcard is the long term
sub-lethal affects on wildlife and fisheries.
Volatile organic compounds and chemicals in the
oil and dispersants being used chemicals can cause acute health effects.
The more the oil hits shore the greater
the risk to the public. The
Environmental Protection agency has increased testing for impact on air
pollution, while local officials are raising concerns about short and longer
term health problems from tainted drinking water and seafood. A hugh expanse of
the Gulf has been closed to fishing, and states have begun to increase sampling
to track any increases in contaminant levels that may result in future limits
on fishing. There are many, many
uncertainties; however, this disaster is a reminder of how fragile the ocean
ecosystem can be and how much more we need to learn about potential exposure
and public health issues.
Let us know how we can assist and engage you in the future. Feel free to send a note to email@example.com or pick up the phone (732-263-5392).
Tony MacDonald, Director of Urban Coast InstituteTony MacDonald is the Director of the Urban Coast Institute (UCI), at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Mr. MacDonald was previously the Executive Director of the Coastal States Organization (CSO). Special Counsel and Director of Environmental Affairs at the American Association of Port Authorities. Tony has also practiced law working on environmental and legislative issues, and served as the Washington, DC environmental legislative representative for the Mayor of the City of New York.
Making Sure It is
Safe to Go in the Water
by Tony MacDonald, NJ-OHHI
summer beach season approaches, it is a good time to time to turn our attention
to reducing health risks from swimming in the
oceans. Surfers continue to raise
anecdotal concerns about increases in ear and skin infections; while
environmental groups keep track of continued annual beach closing and advisories - more than 20,000 in 2008 (NRDC, 2009). Runoff from sewage and stormwater systems and unregulated runoff
after rain storms is the source of beach water pollution. New Jersey continues
to issue 'preemptory beach closures after rain events anticipating pollution,
and recognizing that results from current tests not available until 24 hours or
more after the storm event. Beach water
quality has improved markedly over the last 20 years; however, reports still
document illnesses including skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections,
meningitis and hepatitis. Current testing and standards are focused on
gastrointestinal illnesses such as the stomach flu. The current rules NJ
close beaches after two-days of high bacterial levels that indicate fecal
pollution. The delay in testing and
beach closure essentially means that much of there is risk of exposure before any
action is taken.
While the US Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of
updating its 20-year-old beach water quality standards by 2012, there is no
requirement to use the rapid-testing methods being developed by EPA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's Ocean and Human Health Initiative is also funding research
into improving beach water quality testing and technology development. Legislative reforms proposed in the Clean
Coastal Environment and Public Health Act, which would require states to begin
using rapid-water tests and provide funding for studies of sources of beach water
pollution, continue to languish in Congress.
The best way to reduce health risks from water contamination is to
prevent it by implementing and enforcing better controls and best stormwater
management practices that reduce pollution at the sources. If we do not get a
better handle on the problem of beach water quality now it threatens t get
worse. Climate change and the
predictions of more frequent and intense rainstorms and temperature increases
will lead to increased stormwater runoff, combined sewer overflows and
pathogens in nearby waterways. In particular, climate change is anticipated to
affect the presence of microbes that cause stomach flu, diarrhea, skin rashes
and neurological and blood infections in America's beach water, according to
the report. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) would help
communities prepare for the impacts of climate change on coastal communities,
such as flooding, sea level rise, increased stormwater pollution and sewer
overflows, in addition to capping global warming pollution.
Project Update: Marine Biotech Cluster and Workforce Opportunity
by Steve Dillingham, Strategro International, LLC
The Marine Industry survey project is nearing completion, with
many stakeholders weighing in (near 40 survey responses and interviews
completed thus far). However, we continue to reach out to members within all
marine industries sectors, include researchers, companies, and government
entities involved in seafood harvesting and processing, aquaculture,
marine biotechnology, marine natural products & ingredients, research, drug
discovery and development, ocean policy and environmental management -- all
related to Oceans and Human Health in some way.
We hope to keep gaining responses from the sectors groups
involved, and have had a particularly strong response rate from the fishing and aquaculture sectors to-date.
The feedback we have gained thus far paints a broad picture of
some of the issues and bottlenecks present which are affecting certain
marine-related industries, and reveals some specific needs for these industries
to develop and support more robust business
opportunities. Respondents have offered ideas and paths
forward for potentially solving longstanding industry problems, and
provided suggestions for forging new collaborations with related industry
groups associated both vertically and horizontally within the value-chain.
Through the interviews and open-ended survey questions, we
have been able to get a preliminary sense of some of the industry
frustration and passion for bringing NJ in line with other
seafood-producing states, to become more productive, economic engines
of the local economy. Most all respondents voiced interest in joining a more
formalized effort to bring together various stakeholders of the related marine
industry sectors in the State, to jointly increase visibility (both
within and external to the State), collaboration, communication, and to
maximize limited State resources.
We ask all those who have not taken the time to complete our
survey to please do so. You can access the questionnaire via this link. NJ
Dolphin Health Linked to Human Health
by Karen A. Choy, NJ-OHHI
Recently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science
(AAAS) unveiled research results on the similarity of dolphin health to human
health when exposed to contaminated coastal waters or seafood. Both humans and dolphins suffer from similar
common colds, viruses and infections. Dolphins
are even stricken with symptoms that resemble the signs of diabetes. These similarities have alerted officials to
study common factors - the quality of water and safety of the fish or foods
both humans and dolphins consume from the ocean. A focus on the dolphins and their health may
provide a key to improving some areas of human health.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is the
agency is responsible for management of marine mammals, also provides funding
for research projects aimed at investigating ocean and human health
concerns. According to NOAA Oceans and Human Health Initiative, "our
ecological and physiological similarities make dolphins an important 'sentinel
species' to not only warn us of health risks, but also provide insight into how
our healthy can benefit from new medical discoveries". The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) is investigating whether coastal dolphin populations and human
communities sharing the same seafood resources can experience similarly from
exposures. Additional evidence resulting from their
studies show that humans and dolphins may share similar chronic disease
outcomes that could result from effects of water quality. For more information on the research click here.
Drugs in Waterways Impact Fish Reproduction
Tom Fote has long been a leader in New Jersey's fisheries community
serving as one of New
Jersey's Commissioners to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the
Legislative Chairman for the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the New
Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.
On April 28, 2010, Tom Fote was honored for his environmental
stewardship at the NJ State Governor's Jefferson Awards.The Jefferson Awards were "established to honor individuals for
their achievement and contributions through public and community service." Previously, he was honored by the Monmouth
University Urban Coast Institute as a true Ocean Champion with a Volunteer of
the Year Award in 2005.
Also, Tom is a retired Army Captain and disabled Vietnam Veteran, whose personal experiences with agent orange inspired him to make a life-long commitment to environmental
That experience has also led him to become one of the most knowledgeable and vocal
advocates raising concerns about recent studies documenting the significant
negative impact of chemicals and nontraditional pollutants on fisheries and
potentially human health. Tom has
testified both before Congress and the New Jersey Legislature about this
emerging issue. Tom is also leading the fight to educate the public on the proper disposal of
In his article titled "The Consequences of Good Intentions", Tom wrote on how most chemicals we deal with today
are not deliberately put into the system with the good intention, but can has unintended negative consequences. Examples include PCB's and asbestos. Tom's recent efforts have focused on exposing evidence that drugs dumped
into New Jersey waterways are posing a serious impact on fish reproduction and
other aquatic species.
acknowledges in his testimony to Congress in 2009, he became aware of the
impacts of chemicals in part through the studies of Dr. Judith Weiss from
Rutgers. Dr. Weiss and her graduate students
have done numerous studies looking at eating, predatory and other behavior for various
fish and crabs in different chemical environments. She found that fish in
Newark Bay where there are significant chemical pollutants (PCBs, mercury,
dioxin and estrogen) behaved differently. In all studies, they found similar behavior
patterns. When they transferred fish from cleaner areas to more polluted areas the
fish soon developed the same inappropriate behaviors. The fish transferred to
cleaner waters improved slightly but never returned to normal.
emerging concern Tom is raising is the increasing scientific evidence that the impact of endocrine disruptors on changing the sex ratio of fisheries and
Tom observed in his previous testimony that: "Many
of the drugs we take for health problems are prescribed in large doses because
our bodies don't absorb them well. This means that our bodies are discharging
significant percentages of the drugs we take, some as high as 90%. We are one
of the chief polluters. The pharmaceutical companies need to research more
efficient and effective delivery systems for these medications. The medical
profession must stop over-prescribing and do a better job of explaining how
drugs are best used to their patients. More is not necessarily better for your
health and is certainly not better for the environment."
has a lifetime of experience, and an uncommon commitment to finding solutions
to the complex issue those effect healthy oceans, fisheries and human
health. Perhaps we all should start
listening to his advice.
14th International Conference Click here to register
on Harmful Algae
Hersonissos, Crete (Greece)
November 1-5, 2010
Open Science Meeting
on Harmful Algal Blooms in Benthic Systems
June 21-24, 2010
Vibrios in the Environment 2010 - Beau Rivage Resort - Biloxi, Mississippi
November 7-12, 2010
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