CHICAGO, August 28 The Great Lakes region has long been valued for its recreational opportunities, but there may be a price to be paid for these pleasures: A new study has found that wood smoke, most likely from campfires and residential fireplaces, is toxic to certain aquatic organisms in the lakes and is a source of air pollution in the region. The study was described today at the 222nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society.
Previous studies of the impact of pollution on the area have focused on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury and other toxins regulated by the federal government. This is believed to be the first study to explore the potential toxicity of the areas recreational smoke.
Rebecca J. Sheesley, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a contributing researcher in the study, cautions that the study so far is limited to toxicity tests exposing aquatic animals to smoke residues. Although the study does not address the impact of wood burning emissions on human health, it raises concern over the impact of these emissions on the health of the Great Lakes, she says.
To determine the impact of atmospheric pollutants on aquatic life in the Great Lakes, the researchers collected particulate matter samples from different areas along the shores of southern Lake Michigan. Those sampling areas included sites in Milwaukee and Waukesha, Wis.; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Portage, Ind.; and Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Mich.
From Aug. 2000 to March 2001, the researchers collected air samples from each of these sites using special air filters. Each sampling event consisted of three consecutive 24-hour sampling periods. They then extracted particles from the filters and exposed each sample extract to a population of a hundred water fleas, which are used as a standard model for testing wastewater toxicity.
For each site sample