We examined PCB concentration data for seven species of Lake Michigan fishes to determine what trends were apparent approximate to 20 yr after PCB restrictions became effective. Total PCB concentrations in all seven species, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), brown trout (Salmo trutta), chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), and bloater chub (Coregonus hoyi) declined and appeared to stabilize in the mid-to-late 1980s. Concentrations in two species, chinook and coho salmon, appear to have increased slightly since the late 1980s. All species are currently well below the high PCB levels that existed when PCB use was curtailed in the 1970s. We believe stabilizing concentrations are the result of large pools of PCBs that are being recycled in the environment. Atmospheric and sediment PCB inputs to the lake probably constitute current PCB sources. Increasing concentrations in chinook and coho salmon are likely the result of changing growth dynamics caused by alterations in the mid-trophic levels of the food web. Median stable PCB concentrations estimated in this analysis are below the current FDA action level of 2 mg/kg, but not appreciably below this threshold. Improvements beyond these levels may result if management practices that maximize fish growth rates are implemented. Detection of future improvements in PCB levels may require samples in the range of 1000-2000 fish because of the high variability in PCB concentrations among individuals.
Additional publication details
Evidence that PCBs are approaching stable concentrations in Lake Michigan fishes