Environmental Project Research center
extends study of region's air, fish
Posted August 24, 2005
A new grant of funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency to James Pagano at SUNY Oswego's Environmental
Research Center will improve understanding of the movement
of chemical contaminants in the Lake Ontario environment
and food chain.
Pagano is the principal investigator on the $126,790 project,
along with scientists from Clarkson University and SUNY
Fredonia. They will analyze samples collected at the previously
established air sampling station in nearby Sterling and
work with the New York State Altmar Fish Hatchery to collect
and analyze salmon muscle and egg samples for a variety
"Muscle tissue is obviously important because that's
what people eat," Pagano said. "The eggs have
a higher percentage of lipids in them and provide a more
robust look at the contaminants" because chemicals
tend to concentrate in these fat-like substances. And
eggs are part of the food chain, too. "Wildlife eat
the eggs," he noted.
Eggs have an additional advantage for the researchers
because they are available in volume. Hatchery workers
"collect millions of eggs for the next generation
of salmon," Pagano explained. "It's a huge sample
The Sterling station was established for the multi-year
Lake Ontario Atmospheric Deposition Study, which has been
monitoring the levels of such chemical contaminants as
polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins in the air over
the lake and in the water and comparing levels of these
pollutants found on shore in Sterling.
The new study, which began earlier this summer, is looking
at these and some additional contaminants in the samples
collected at Sterling, such as organochlorine pesticides
and polybrominated diethyl ethers, a kind of flame retardant.
"PBDEs are increasing in the environment," Pagano
said. "They're in all Great Lakes fish" and
have been showing up in humans, he added.
The hatchery's salmon samples will become available during
spawning season in October, he said, and researchers will
analyze them for the same chemicals this year and next.
Results of this two-year study will help determine if
establishing a long-term project to use salmon eggs as
an ecological indicator is warranted, Pagano said.
The new study relates to other ongoing environmental
studies along Lake Ontario, such as SUNY Oswego's study
of the effects of prenatal exposure to PCBs in humans
and SUNY Brockport's and Oswego's study of the effect
of PCBs on mink reproduction.
"Mink are sentinel animals. They're very, very sensitive
to reproductive effects. If there's contamination with
PCBs, mink reproduction will effectively stop," Pagano
said. "Without a doubt, the mink near Lake Ontario
are much higher in PCBs than anywhere else."
The grant funds come from EPA's Great Lakes National
Geographic Initiative and are administered through the
Great Lakes Commission under the Great Lakes Air Deposition
Program. Pagano's fellow investigators are Tom Holsen
at Clarkson University and Mike Milligan at SUNY Fredonia.