The analysis of potential contaminants in biological tissues is an important part of many water-quality assessment programs, including the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Tissue analyses often are used to provide information about (1) direct threats to ecosystem integrity, and (2) the occurrence and distribution of potential contaminants in the environment.
During 1992-93, trace elements in Asiatic clam (Corbicula fluminea) soft tissues and redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus) livers were analyzed to obtain information about the occurrence and distribution of trace element contaminants in the Albemarle-Pamlico Drainage Basin of North Carolina and Virginia. The investigation was conducted as part of the NAWQA Program.
All but 3 of the 22 trace elements that were analyzed were detected. Although all 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) priority pollutants were detected in the tissues sampled, they were present in relatively low concentrations. Concentrations of U.S. EPA priority pollutants in Asiatic clams collected in the Albemarle-Pamlico Drainage Basin are similar to concentrations observed in other NAWQA study units in the southeastern United States. Mercury (a U.S. EPA priority pollutant) was widely detected, being present in 29 of 30 tissue samples, but concentrations did not exceed the FDA action level for mercury of a risk-based screening value for the general public. Mercury concentrations in Asiatic clams were similar to concentrations in other NAWQA study areas in the Southeast.