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Open Lakes Trend Monitoring Program: PCBs

Contact Information

For further information on the Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program, please contact:

Elizabeth Murphy (murphy.elizabeth@epa.gov)
Environmental Scientist
EPA Great Lakes National Program Office
(312) 353-4227 or 1-800-621-8431 x34227

Access the Data

Data produced by the GLFMSP can be obtained through the Great Lakes Environmental Database Query System or through the University of Illinois Extension website Exit EPA Disclaimer

You can also contact the program manager, Elizabeth Murphy, for information regarding the GLFMSP and/or supporting data.

Peer reviewed journal articles published using GLFMSP data can also be found on the Reports & Links page.

Total PCB concentrations for individual and composited whole body Lake Trout or Walleye (Lake Erie).

Total PCB concentrations (median & IQR) for individual (Environment Canada) and composited (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) whole body Lake Trout or Walleye (Lake Erie) collected from each of the Great Lakes. Dashed lines show log-linear regression model if annual change is significantly different from zero (a = 0.05). (McGoldrick, D., Clark, M., and Murphy, E. 2012. "Contaminants in Whole Fish", In: U.S. EPA and Environment Canada. 2012. State of the Great Lakes 2012.) (Click to enlarge)

Mean Total PCB Concentration in Lake Trout/Walleye from 1991 through 2009

Mean Total PCB Concentration in Lake Trout/Walleye from 1991 through 2009. (Click to enlarge)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) are chlorinated compounds that were used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment. The production of PCBs was banned in 1977 but the compounds are still present in the environment. Median PCB concentrations in Lake Trout in Lakes Superior, Huron, and Ontario and Walleye in Lake Erie continue to decline; however, they are still above the target of 0.1 µg/g ww in the 1987 GLWQA. Log-linear regression of Environment Canada data show the continued long-term annual declines of 5% in Lake Trout from Lake Superior and 7% in Lakes Huron and Ontario while PCBs in Lake Erie Walleye are declining by 3% per year. Similar analyses of U.S. EPA data show no significant annual declines of total PCB in Lake Trout from Lake Superior and 4%, 6%, 7%, and 4% annual declines in total PCB in Lake Trout from Lakes Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Lake Erie Walleye, respectively.

Recent studies have suggested that rates of decline of PCB residues in fish are slowing or have stopped in some lakes in recent years (Bhavsar et al. 2007; Carlson et al. 2010). Despite potential changes in annual rates of decline, first-order log-linear regression models are still a good fit to observed concentrations in the lakes through time. Results generated in the next few years of monitoring should clarify whether or not the rates of decline are slowing and statistical methods to assess trends will be altered as required.

GLFMSP PCB publications:

Referenced Publications


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