Great Lakes Consortium PCB Protocol - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Great Lakes Consortium PCB Protocol


The manufacture of PCBs was banned in the U.S. in the late 1970’s but PCBs persist in the environment and had been found at high levels in Great Lakes fish. In response to the Governors’ Council 1986 charge, the Consortium developed the “Protocol for a Uniform Great Lakes Sport Fish Consumption Advisory” (PCB Protocol) – a protocol for determining consumption advice to protect against exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from eating fish. The Consortium evaluated many animal and human exposure studies and recommended a Health Protection Value (HPV) as the maximum daily ingestion dose for people who eat Great Lakes fish.

The Consortium developed the HPV as a stand-alone value specifically for use in state fish advisories and related to the mixture of PCBs found in fish tissue. This was a departure from the toxicity values utilized by regulatory programs such as USEPA—including RfDs (reference doses) and cancer slope factors--and represented a composite risk value of a mix of commercial PCB compounds. In 1993, the Protocol was submitted to the Council of Great Lakes Governors and subsequently approved by the Council. Most of the Great Lakes states and many other jurisdictions use the PCB Protocol to determine the consumption advice for fish from waters where PCBs have been found.

Three characteristics were important in development of the PCB Protocol. First, PCB concentrations found in fish from the Great Lakes region were and remain higher than in many other locations in the U.S. However, PCB contamination ranges widely and is not an issue for all fish species or locations. Second, surveys had found that anglers and many others living in the Great Lakes region eat fish at rates far greater than nation-wide averages. And, finally, the Consortium recognized that anglers tend to concentrate their fishing in specific geographical locations.

Recognizing these characteristics of the region plus the health risks posed by PCBs, the Consortium concluded that the protocol should result in adequate health protection while also accommodating people’s food preferences and the health benefits of eating fish. Also, many fish species of the Great Lakes are both caught by anglers, and harvested and sold in commercial fish markets (e.g. lake trout, whitefish, walleye, catfish, smelt, perch, buffalo, and carp). Consortium members agreed that the FDA tolerances for interstate sale of commercially sold fish were not adequately protective of the health of many who live in the Great Lakes region and consume self-caught fish at rates greater than the national average.

Updated Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 01:41PM