A diver taking samples of shellfish and crustaceans in waters near the industrial complex Ventanas. (Photo: OCEANA/Eduardo Sorensen)
High level shellfish contamination with heavy metals
Friday, May 04, 2012, 03:40 (GMT + 9)
The non-government marine conservation organisation Oceana has expressed warnings about the presence of high concentrations of heavy metals and of other contaminants in seafood for human consumption captured near the industrial complex Ventanas, Puchuncaví town.
According to the group, a study in the area indicates that "these levels of contamination can not be tolerated in a populated area."
The research was commissioned by the NGO to GCL laboratory from Fundación Chile in late March, 2012.
During the study, researchers performed a sampling of shellfish and crustaceans (clams, limpets, abalone and crabs) found at four adjacent spots to the town of Ventanas.
Proponents of the analysis intended to know whether the industrial companies in the area were contaminating fisheries resources with heavy metals and pollutants.
One of the conclusions that has been drawn is that 100 per cent of the analyzed species are contaminated with copper, arsenic and cadmium.
"The study results are not surprising but are still really serious," said Oceana CEO, Alex Muñoz.
This populated area has "a marine ecosystem that used to be very productive and an important source of work before the installation of these industries. Government authorities can not continue being indifferent and we hope that as soon as possible a thorough recovery plan is developed for this area," he added.
Scientists detected the highest level of contamination in samples of abalone caught in the area where Tebo beach is managed: they had five times more copper and four times more arsenic than permitted under national law, and five times more cadmium than European law allows.
This beach is located only about 2 miles north of Ventanas and it is important for the artisanal fishermen of the place.
In addition, the analyzed crabs contained copper and arsenic values that were four times higher than that allowed by Chilean regulations, and much higher than international standards set as those in force in Europe or than that determined by Codex Alimentarius of the European Commission.
For Oceana, it is not surprising that these results are given in an area with high concentration of industries such as coal fired power plants and copper smelters "because the emission of all the elements found in the samples is related to smelting and refining processes or industrial metallic copper use and with burning fossil fuels like coal or oil," the NGO reported.
Oceana proposes to prohibit new power plants, such as Campiche and Energía Minera so as to reverse this situation.
Furthermore, it considers necessary to establish a rigorous decontamination plan and approve strict emission rules for smelters as soon as possible.
The President of the Medical Association of Chile, Enrique Paris, said that if the rates that were found are true, pregnant women should avoid consumption, Bío Bío Chile reported.
By Analia Murias