Lead (Pb) in biota and perceptions of Pb exposure at a recently designated superfund beach site in New Jersey

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld, Christian Jeitner, Mark Donio, Taryn Pittfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Raritan Bay Slag Site (New Jersey) was designated a Superfund site in 2009 because the seawall, jetties, and sediment contained lead (Pb). Our objective was to compare Pb and mercury (Hg) levels in biota and public perceptions of exposure at the Superfund and reference sites. Samples (algae, invertebrates, fish) were collected from the Raritan Bay Slag Site and reference sites and analyzed for Pb and Hg. Waterfront users were interviewed using a standard questionnaire. Levels of Pb in aquatic organisms were compared to ecological and human health safety standards. Lead levels were related to location, trophic level, and mobility. Lead levels in biota were highest at the western side of the West Jetty. Mean Pb levels were highest for algae (Fucus=53,600 ± 6990 ng/g = ppb [wet weight], Ulva=23,900 ± 2430 ppb), intermediate for grass shrimp (7270 ± 1300 ppb, 11,600 ± 3340 ppb), and lowest for fish (Atlantic silversides 218 ± 44 ppb). Within species, Pb levels varied significantly across the sampling sites. Lead levels in algae, sometimes ingested by individuals, were sufficiently high to exceed human safety levels. Mercury levels did not differ between the Superfund and reference sites. Despite the fence and warnings, people (1) used the Superfund and reference sites similarly, (2) had similar fish consumption rates, and (3) were not concerned about Pb, although most individuals knew the metal was present. The fish sampled posed no apparent risk for human consumers, but the algae did.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-287
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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