BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Eating contaminated sport fish from Lake Ontario is associated with shortened menstrual cycles, epidemiologists from the University at Buffalo have found.
They also reported that the fish consumption was associated with a small, but statistically insignificant, delay in the time it took women to become pregnant.
The results are from two separate studies that are among the first to assess the dietary effect of low-level environmental exposure to organochlorines, heavy metals and pesticides, all recognized reproductive toxicants, on the reproductive process in humans.
The studies are published in the Dec. 2 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, which is dedicated to research by faculty members and graduates of the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.
Women enrolled in New York State Angler Cohort provided the data for the studies. The cohort, composed of 10,518 male anglers, 918 female anglers and 6,651 spouses or partners of male anglers, was formed in 1991 to provide a representative sample of fishing-license-holders between the ages of 18 and 40 from the 16 counties near Lake Ontario. The sample provides a population base for a variety of studies on the implications of Great Lakes contamination.
Eating Great Lakes sport fish delivers a mixture of toxic chemicals, including PCBs at a level estimated to be 4,300 times greater than through exposure in the air or via drinking water. Many of these chemicals accumulate in the body. Lake Ontario fish are reported to have more than twice the amount of dioxin, mirex and PCBs than fish from the other Great Lakes, a finding that has resulted in the New York State Department of Health recommending that women of childbearing age eat no Lake Ontario fish. An earlier UB study showed that most anglers are aware of the advisory, but many don't know the specific recommendations for women and didn't change habits because of the advisory.