Seafood Safety

The overarching purpose of GC-HARMS is to: “characterize and communicate the human health risks of exposure to potentially hazardous food-borne petrogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH).”

Project goals include assessing PAH contamination of Gulf seafood consumed and sold by subsistence fishing communities, gauging the relative toxicity of seafood contaminated by oil that was not burned (petrogenic), and evaluating it’s exposures and health outcomes in the human population.

Community fishermen  received training in using scientific sampling protocols from the premiere community-based environmental health scientist on the Northern Gulf Coast, Wilma Subra, in close collaboration with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. As of, 6/01/2013, regional fishermen have collected approximately 3,000 samples from 153 discrete sampling sites comprising both commercial and subsistence species including: brown and white shrimp, blue crab, oysters, speckled trout, flounder, sheepshead, red fish (near coastal / inside waters), and red snapper, grouper, amberjack, king mackerel (offshore / deeper water).

paul_oyster_hand web_shrimp crab_hand
Oyster, shrimp and crab representative of sample types collected for GC-HARMS


These samples are delivered to UTMB and analyzed – using a Gas Chromatograph / Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) analytic process to measure quantitiesof approximately 42 different compounds in oil that was not burned (ie. petrogenic PAHs) in sample tissues. GC-HARMS hopes to address the fact that little research has been done regarding the long-term health impacts of exposure to petrogenic PAHs.

PAH compounds detected in the samples are compared with a known, similarly structured toxic substance for which toxic properties have already been characterized. This enables us to establish toxicity standards for the PAHs.

These activities are focused on characterizing seafood risk and establishing reasonable seafood consumption guidelines.

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