Healthy Fishing Communities: Biomonitoring of Great Lakes Populations Project

Center for Environmental Health
Information Sheet, December 2012

image showing Great Lakes biomonitoring icon

What is the purpose of this project?

This project will measure the level of chemicals and metals in people who eat fish caught from the Great Lakes. The project results will be used to develop public health actions to prevent and reduce exposures to these contaminants in the future.

Who is conducting the project?

The project is a joint effort between the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH). Two other Great Lakes states, Michigan and Minnesota, are also conducting similar projects.

Who will be participating?

  1. Licensed sport anglers who fish in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and nearby rivers and waterways and eat their catch;
  2. Refugees from Burma who eat fish caught from Buffalo area waters.

How will people be recruited?

Licensed sport anglers will be randomly selected for participation and mailed an eligibility screening survey. Refugees will be recruited using a coupon system for referrals among community members. The goal is to recruit 300 sport anglers living in Erie, Niagara, and Monroe counties and 200 refugees from Burma currently living in Buffalo.

What will people be asked to do?

Once recruited, each person will be scheduled to visit a project site in their area. At this appointment participants will be asked to:

  1. sign an informed consent form;
  2. complete a fish consumption interview;
  3. provide a small sample of blood (about 2 tablespoons), drawn by a trained phlebotomist, and about ½ cup of urine, in a private setting.

Samples will be packaged for transport to the NYS DOH's Wadsworth Center Laboratories for analysis. Participants will be given a thank you gift for their time and effort. Participants will receive letters providing their blood and urine results. NYS DOH staff and a NYS DOH physician will be available by telephone and at local events to help participants understand their blood and urine results. NYS DOH representatives will explain that having a measurable level of a contaminant in the body does not mean a person will necessarily develop a health problem.

For more information on the Biomonitoring of Great Lakes Populations Project, please contact:

Sana Savadatti, Project Coordinator, Phone: (518) 402-7950, E-mail:

For information on ways to reduce exposures to Great Lakes contaminants:

See the New York State Fish Advisories.