Posted on 03 December 2007 by

Dredging May Affect Tomatoes


Dredging May Affect Tomatoes

Photo Credit: New Bedford Harbor by brixton used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Michelle Fabio

On the surface, dredging and excavating contaminated marine sediments appears to be a smart environmental practice.

However, as reported in the latest issue of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, research on the New Bedford, Massachusetts harbor shows that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used in the area between World War II and the 1970s have shown up on locally grown tomatoes.

Cleanup of the New Bedford harbor began between April 1994 and September 1995 through the Superfund program; during dredging, exposed contaminated sediments are released into the atmosphere and tidal waters, which may then carry PCBs to surrounding areas via the water and air.

Indeed, above-expected levels of PCBs have been found in locally grown tomatoes, but they are still below food tolerances and FDA action levels.

While there doesn’t appear to be a risk to human health at this point, it does remind us that in trying to remedy past environmental harms, we must be careful not to create new problems.

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