Bioaccumulate Toxics In Native American Shellfish

Bioaccumulate Toxics in Native American Shellfish Project, 2002-2006

Funded by the USEPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant #R-82946701

seafoodspiral.gifThe hypothesis of the project was that Swinomish people are exposed to low level, bioaccumulative toxics when participating in subsistence gathering and consumption of local shellfish. This project was unique in that it was a project that was both initiated and managed by a tribe and thus successfully represented the ability of Native American communities to conduct technically and culturally competent research that recognizes and upholds Native values.

Specific Aims

  1. Determine the types and concentrations of bioaccumulative toxics present in locally-harvested shellfish
  2. If health risks are identified, to effectively communicate those risks in a culturally appropriate manner
  3. If health risks are identified, to develop mitigation measures
  4. If health risks are identified, to confirm major health problems on the Reservation that may be related to eating contaminated shellfish, and develop hypotheses between the health problems and toxics found


Several published reports indicate the presence of chemical contamination in the Tribal tidelands and waters as well as in some surrounding areas within the usual and accustomed (U/A) areas; all of these areas contain sites at which Swinomish people frequently gather shellfish. Chemicals tested for in this project are: Heavy metals (arsenic, copper, cadmium, selenium, mercury, lead, nickel); PCBs (poly-chlorinated biphenyls); PAHs (Polyaromatic hydrocarbons); Dioxins/-furans; Chlorinated pesticides; and TBT (Tributyltin).

Recent studies published by Puget Sound Tribes have found consumption rates of up to 132.7 grams per day for shellfish alone. In the past, the designated average consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day for fish and shellfish for the average American (approximately one fish meal per month) was used in health risk analyses determining exposure to bioaccumulative toxics, completely overlooking Native American subsistence harvesting and consumption issues.

Bioaccumulate Toxics In Native American Shellfish


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