HUMAN HEALTH RISK
PCBs have been implicated as toxic agents that have dioxin-like properties that can lead to carcinogenic effects in humans (U.S. EPA 1996). Yet, the EPA fully acknowledges that PCBs leach into the marine environment from sunken vessels and accumulate in the bodies of fish, which are then transferred through the food web to humans as humans digest contaminated fish. PCB’s ability to accumulate in the environment and in organisms means that organisms at higher trophic levels (higher in the food chain), such as humans, are at higher risk
of toxic exposure to organisms themselves.33
The U.S. EPA has the authority to approve risk- based disposal of PCBs (63 FR 35384, June 29, 1998), “if a finding of no unreasonable risk of injury to human health and the environment can be made.” However, the EPA is also noted as saying “Considering the type of PCB material involved and the lack of evidence of unreasonable risk to human health or the environment, the Office of Water has determined that the general MPRSA permit for SINKEX is protective of risks associated with PCBs on SINKEX vessels.” By the EPA’s own admission, there exists a lack of evidence to find “no unreasonable risk of injury to human health and the environment,” yet SINKEX continues, a direct result of the EPA not regulating SINKEX under TSCA.
The EPA human health risk assessment includes the following measure: “Cancer risks are calculated in terms of additional cases of cancer above what is normally expected to occur in a population over a 70-year lifetime. US EPA considers an increase in the range of one additional case in 1,000,000 people up to one additional case in 10,000 people to be
Barnthouse, Glaser, Young, 2003 BASEL ACTION NETWORK
acceptable.” According the EPA cancer risk standard, the Redbird Reef off the coast of Delaware, which sees 13,000 angler visits annually, constitutes reasonable and acceptable risk if only one of these anglers or their children develops cancer from exposure to PCBs from the sunken ARTHUR RADFORD, currently slated for sinking in Summer 2011. With an anticipated 60-year life span of the reef, the
Red snapper are sought after by both recreational and commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. However, red snapper caught at the Oriskany sink site were found to contain PCB concentrations that exceed the Florida Department of Health fish consumption advisory threshold. The vessel was sunk with an estimated 680,000 pounds of PCB contaminated material. Image Source: Louisiana State University Sea Grant Program, Flickr user lsgcp under Creative Commons agreement