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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 11;109(50):20274-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1108886109. Epub 2012 Feb 6.

Federal seafood safety response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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  • 1Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, WA 98112, USA.


Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, petroleum-related compounds and chemical dispersants were detected in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, there was concern about the risk to human health through consumption of contaminated seafood in the region. Federal and Gulf Coast State agencies worked together on a sampling plan and analytical protocols to determine whether seafood was safe to eat and acceptable for sale in the marketplace. Sensory and chemical methods were used to measure polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dispersant in >8,000 seafood specimens collected in federal waters of the Gulf. Overall, individual PAHs and the dispersant component dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate were found in low concentrations or below the limits of quantitation. When detected, the concentrations were at least two orders of magnitude lower than the level of concern for human health risk. Once an area closed to fishing was free of visibly floating oil and all sensory and chemical results for the seafood species within an area met the criteria for reopening, that area was eligible to be reopened. On April 19, 2011 the area around the wellhead was the last area in federal waters to be reopened nearly 1 y after the spill began. However, as of November 9, 2011, some state waters off the Louisiana coast (Barataria Bay and the Delta region) remain closed to fishing.

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