An Evaluation of Heavy Metals in Sediment and Fish in the Swan River and the Health Risks Associated with Fish Consumption: A Pilot Study
Australian Institute of Environmental Health
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Nursing and Public Health
The objectives of this pilot study were to determine levels of certain heavy metals (cadmium, lead and mercury) in river sediment and fish and to quantify the associated health risks for recreational anglers who regularly consume fish from the river. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines were used to evaluate levels of heavy metals in fish and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prescribed reference doses were used to calculate risks associated with fish consumption. It was determined that adults can safely consume one fish meal per day. Children should consume no more than one fish meal every three - four days and pregnant women should limit their consumption to one meal per month. Hair samples obtained from a group of regular fishermen were within the WHO guidelines but were elevated when compared to a control group. Future acidification and pollution of the Swan River catchment area could negatively impact upon the health of the ecosystem and the people who use the river resources. It is recommended that further studies be conducted in order to identify a profile of pollution and heavy metal distribution throughout the river ecosystem. A sentinel population of regular fish consumers needs to be identified and monitored. Seasonal fish consumption guidelines need to be developed for various species of fish in different parts of the river. A baseline level of heavy metals in hair samples for the Perth population needs to be established and the public need to be informed of risks associated with fish consumption.