Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters
Assessment made on 17 Oct 2003
ClassificationWater (Primary theme)
Coasts and seas
- WHS 6_WHS7
Policy issue: Do present day concentrations of hazardous substances have unacceptable impacts on human health and the environment?
Concentrations of some hazardous substances are decreasing in marine organisms at some monitoring stations in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, and the north-east Atlantic Ocean in response to measures to reduce the inputs of these substances to these seas
However, concentrations of some substances remained constant, despite the measures taken
Contaminant concentrations above limits for human consumption are still found in mussels and fish, mainly from estuaries of major rivers, near some industrial point discharges and in some harbours
Hazardous substances may affect human health through the consumption of marine organisms and can have deleterious effects on the marine ecosystem function. Lethal and sublethal effects are known to occur. The long-term effects of these persistent substances in the European marine environment are not adequately known. Measures to reduce the input of hazardous substances and to protect the marine environment are being taken as a result of various initiatives on different levels. These are described in other indicators. More recently, the water framework directive will require Member States to achieve good ecological and chemical status in transitional and coastal waters. Chemical status will be defined in terms of standards for a priority list of the most hazardous substances.
Table 4.2 summarises the main trends found in the data from the Baltic Sea (herring muscle), Mediterranean Sea (mussels) and the north-east Atlantic (mussels, and cod liver and muscle). Decreasing trends have been found for cadmium, mercury and lead in mussels in the north-east Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea (Figure 4.19), and for lindane in Mediterranean mussels, and DDT and PCBs in mussels from the north-east Atlantic. In fish, there was less evidence of generally decreasing trends and in the case of PCB in cod liver in the north-east Atlantic there was evidence of an increase in concentrations since 1990. Even though some stations have decreasing trends, other areas, remote from point sources, may have elevated concentrations of some hazardous substances (for example, cadmium in northern Iceland, mercury in northern Norway).
|Table 4.2. Summary of trends in concentrations in biota in Baltic and Mediterranean Seas and the north-east Atlantic Ocean|
|Cadmium|| || || || |
|Mercury|| || || || |
|Lead|| || || || |
|DDT|| || || || |
|PCBs|| || || || |
inconsistent, but decreasing trend
|ni = no information|
|Muscle analysed in herring; liver analysed in cod except for mercury where muscle was used.|
Download detailed information and factsheets
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters: PCB
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters: Lead
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters: Mercury
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters: DDT
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters: Cadmium
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters: Lindane
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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