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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters

Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to coastal waters

Topics: , ,

Assessment made on  17 Oct 2003

Generic metadata

Classification

Water Water (Primary theme)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

DPSIR: State

Identification

Indicator codes
  • WHS 6_WHS7
Geographical coverage:

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Contents
 

Policy issue:  Do present day concentrations of hazardous substances have unacceptable impacts on human health and the environment?

Key messages

  • 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

Figures

Key assessment

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
 
Baltic
Herring
NE
Atlantic
Cod
NE
Atlantic
Mussels
Mediter-
ranean
Mussels
Cadmium
Neutral (some positive development, but insufficient)
Neutral (some positive development, but insufficient)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Mercury
Neutral (some positive development, but insufficient)
Neutral (some positive development, but insufficient)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Lead
Neutral (some positive development, but insufficient)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
DDT
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Neutral (some positive development, but insufficient)
Positive trend (moving towards target)
ni
PCBs
Positive trend (moving towards target)
Unfavourable trend
Positive trend (moving towards target)
ni
Lindane
ni
ni
ni
Positive trend (moving towards target)

 inconsistent, but decreasing trend
 no trend
 upward trend
ni = no information
Muscle analysed in herring; liver analysed in cod except for mercury where muscle was used.

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