PCB-Laced Salmon Pollute Alaskan Lakes

Pollution is turning up in some of Alaska’s remotest and most pristine lakes, and the problem isn’t secret shore-side industries — it’s salmon. According to research published in this week’s edition of Nature, sockeye salmon pick up PCBs in the northern Pacific Ocean, then head to Alaska to spawn and die. Their decomposing bodies release pollutants, raising PCB concentrations in lake sediment by as much as seven times. The salmon themselves are not toxic enough to be dangerous when eaten, but given the enormous numbers of fish that concentrate in the small lakes, the cumulative effect could be harmful. “Maybe the message here is that when we release these chemicals into the environment, a lot of unexpected things can happen,” said Jules Blais, a professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the authors of the study.