Shellfish and residual chemical contaminants: hazards, monitoring, and health risk assessment along French coasts

Marielle Guéguen, Jean-Claude Amiard, Nathalie Arnich, Pierre-Marie Badot, Didier Claisse, Thierry Guérin, Jean-Paul Vernoux
Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2011, 213: 55-111
In this review, we address the identification of residual chemical hazards in shellfish collected from the marine environment or in marketed shellfish. Data, assembled on the concentration of contaminants detected, were compared with the appropriate regulatory and food safety standards. Moreover, data on human exposure and body burden levels were evaluated in the context of potential health risks.Shellfish farming is a common industry along European coasts. The primary types of shellfish consumed in France are oysters, mussels, king scallops, winkles,whelks, cockles, clams, and other scallops. Shellfish filter large volumes of water to extract their food and are excellent bioaccumulators. Metals and other pollutants that exist in the marine environment partition into particular organs, according to their individual chemical characteristics. In shellfish, accumulation often occurs in the digestive gland, which plays a role in assimilation, excretion, and detoxification of contaminants. The concentrations of chemical contaminants in bivalve mollusks are known to fluctuate with the seasons.European regulations limit the amount and type of contaminants that can appear in foodstuffs. Current European standards regulate the levels of micro-biological agents, phycotoxins, and some chemical contaminants in food. Since 2006, these regulations have been compiled into the "Hygiene Package." Bivalve mollusks must comply with maximum levels of certain contaminants as follows:lead (1.5 mg kg-1), cadmium (1 mg kg-1), mercury (0.5 mg kg-1), dioxins (4 pg g-1 and dioxins + DL-PCBs 8 pg g-1), and benzo[a]pyrene (10 μp.g kg-1).In this review, we identify the levels of major contaminants that exist in shellfish(collected from the marine environment and/or in marketed shellfish). The follow-ing contaminants are among those that are profiled: Cd, Pb, Hg, As, Ni, Cr, V,Mn, Cu, Zn, Co, Se, Mg, Mo, radionuclides, benzo[a]pyrene, PCBs, dioxins and furans, PAHs, TBT, HCB, dieldrin, DDT, lindane, triazines, PBDE, and chlorinated paraffins.In France, the results of contaminant monitoring have indicated that Cd, but not lead (< 0.26 mg kg-1) or mercury (< 0.003 mg kg-1), has had some non-compliances. Detections for PCBs and dioxins in shellfish were far below the regulatory thresholds in oysters (< 0.6 pg g-l), mussels (< 0.6 pg g-1), and king scallops (< 0.4 pg g-1). The benzo[a]pyrene concentration in marketed mussels and farmed shellfish does not exceed the regulatory threshold. Some monitoring data are available on shellfish flesh contamination for unregulated organic contaminants.Of about 100 existing organo stannic compounds, residues of the mono-, di-, and tributyltin (MBT, DBT, and TBT) and mono-, di-, and triphenyltin (MPT, DPT,and TPT) compounds are the most frequently detected in fishery products. Octyltins are not found in fishery products. Some bivalve mollusks show arsenic levels up to 15.8 mg kg-1. It seems that the levels of arsenic in the environment derive less from bioaccumulation, than from whether the arsenic is in an organic or an inorganic form. In regard to the other metals, levels of zinc and magnesium are higher in oysters than in mussels.To protect shellfish from chemical contamination, programs have been established to monitor water masses along coastal areas. The French monitoring network(ROCCH) focuses on environmental matrices that accumulate contaminants. These include both biota and sediment. Example contaminants were studied in a French coastal lagoon (Arcachon Bay) and in an estuary (Bay of Seine), and these were used to illustrate the usefulness of the monitoring programs. Twenty-one pesticidal and biocidal active substances were detected in the waters of Arcachon Bay during the summers from 1999 to 2003, at concentrations ranging from a few nanograms per liter to several hundred nanograms per liter. Most of the detected substances were herbicides, including some that are now banned. Organotin compounds have been detected in similarly semi-enclosed waters elsewhere (bays, estuaries, and harbors).However, the mean concentrations of cadmium, mercury, lead, and benzo[a]pyrene,in transplanted mussels, were below the regulatory limits.In 2007, the mean daily consumption of shellfish in the general French population was estimated to be 4.5 g in adults; however, a wide variation occurs by region and season (INCA 2 study). Tabulated as a proportion of the diet, shellfish consumption represents only 0.16% of overall solid food intake. However, the INCA 2 survey was not well suited to estimating shellfish consumption because of the small number of shellfish consumers sampled. In contrast, the mean consumption rate of bivalve mollusks among adult high consumers of fish and seafood products, i.e., adults who eat fish or seafood at least twice a week, was estimated to be 153 g week-1 (8 kg yr-1). The highest mean consumption is for king scallops (39 g week-1), followed by oysters (34 g week-1) and mussels (22 g week-1). Thus, for high seafood consumers, the contribution of shellfish to inorganic contaminant levels is 1-10% TWI or PTWI for Cd, MeHg, and Sn (up to 19% for Sn), and the arsenic body burden is higher for 22% of individuals studied.The human health risks associated with consuming chemical contaminants in shellfish are difficult to assess for several reasons: effects may only surface after long-term exposure (chronic risk), exposures may be discontinuous, and contamination may derive from multiple sources (food, air, occupational exposure, etc.).Therefore, it is not possible to attribute a high body burden specifically to shellfish consumption even if seafood is a major dietary contributor of any contaminant, e.g.,arsenic and mercury.The data assembled in this review provide the arguments for maintaining the chemical contaminant monitoring programs for shellfish. Moreover, the results presented herein suggest that monitoring programs should be extended to other chemicals that are suspected of presenting a risk to consumers, as illustrated by the high concentration reported for arsenic (in urine) of high consumers of seafood products from the CALIPSO study. In addition, the research conducted in shellfish-farming areas of Arcachon Bay highlights the need to monitor TBT and PAH contamination levels to ensure that these chemical pollutants do not migrate from the harbor to oyster farms.Finally, we have concluded that shellfish contamination from seawater offers a rather low risk to the general French population, because shellfish do not constitute a major contributor to dietary exposure of chemical contaminants. Notwithstanding,consumer vigilance is necessary among regular shellfish consumers, and especially for those residing in fishing communities, for pregnant and breast-feeding women,and for very young children.

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