Evaluation of the contamination of marine algae (Seaweed) from the St. Lawrence River and likely to be consumed by humans.

Author

Phaneuf D, Cote I, Dumas P, Ferron LA, LeBlanc A.

Date

2/1999

Journal

Environ Res

Abstract

The goal of the study was to assess the contamination of marine algae (seaweeds) growing in the St. Lawrence River estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence and to evaluate the risks to human health from the consumption of these algae. Algae were collected by hand at low tide. A total of 10 sites on the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence as well as in Baie des Chaleurs were sampled. The most frequently collected species of algae were Fucus vesiculosus, Ascophyllum nodosum, Laminaria longicruris, Palmaria palmata, Ulva lactuca, and Fucus distichus. Alga samples were analyzed for metals (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn), iodine, and organochlorines. A risk assessment was performed using risk factors (e.g., RfD of the U.S. EPA, ADI of Health Canada, etc.). In general, concentrations in St. Lawrence algae were not very high. This was especially true for mercury and the organochlorines, concentrations of which were very low or below detection limits. Consequently, health risks associated with these compounds in St. Lawrence algae were very low. Iodine concentration, on the other hand, could be of concern with regard to human health. Regular consumption of algae, especially of Laminaria sp., could result in levels of iodine sufficient to cause thyroid problems. For regular consumers, it would be preferable to choose species with low iodine concentrations, such as U. lactuca and P. palmata, in order to prevent potential problems. Furthermore, it would also be important to assess whether preparation for consumption or cooking affects the iodine content of algae. Algae consumption may also have beneficial health effects. Scientific literature has shown that it is a good source of fiber and vitamins, especially vitamin B12.