Heavy metals in fish from the Aleutians: Interspecific and locational differences

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld, Christian Jeitner, Taryn Pittfield, Mark Donio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The objectives of this study were to examine levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and selenium in edible tissue of seven species of marine fish collected from several Aleutian islands (in 2004) to determine: (1) interspecific differences, (2) locational differences (among Aleutian Islands), (3) size-related differences in any metal levels within a species, and (4) potential risk to the fish or to predators on the fish, including humans. We also compared metals levels to those of three other fish species previously examined in detail, as well as examining metals in the edible tissue of octopus (Octopus dofleini). Octopus did not have the highest levels of any metal. There were significant interspecific differences in all metal levels among the fish species, although the differences were less than an order of magnitude, except for arsenic (mean of 19,500. ppb in Flathead sole, Hippoglossoides elassodon). Significant intraisland variation occurred among the four sites on Amchitka, but there was not a consistent pattern. There were significant interisland differences for some metals and species. Mercury levels increased significantly with size for several species; lead increased significantly for only one fish species; and cadmium and selenium decreased significantly with size for halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis). The Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services supports unrestricted consumption of most Alaskan fish species for all people, including pregnant women. Most mean metal concentrations were well below the levels known to adversely affect the fish themselves, or predators that consume them (including humans), except for mercury in three fish species (mean levels just below 0.3. ppm), and arsenic in two fish species. However, even at low mercury levels, people who consume fish almost daily will exceed guideline values from the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


  • Cadmium
  • Fish
  • Human health risk
  • Lead
  • Mercury


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