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Onema in the national PCB action plan

Following the detection of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) levels higher than the authorised thresholds in the flesh of certain freshwater fish, the public authorities launched in the beginning of 2008 a major national action plan.

Onema manages the sampling programme for fish in aquatic environments, in compliance with technical specifications set by AFFSA (French agency for food safety). In the spring of 2008, Onema personnel collected fish from 107 sites in the most contaminated river basins. The goal was to determine PCB levels in the flesh of the fish. The data will be analysed by AFSSA and then used by State representatives to determine the necessary management measures for fishing and consumption purposes. In 2009, samples will be drawn from approximately 100 new sites, selected taking into account sediment contamination and the level of professional fishing. For example, the Loire and Garonne basins will receive particular attention in 2009.

In addition, PCB contamination of sediments raises a number of questions for research, notably concerning the evolution of PCB in aquatic environments. "To gain insight into the complex phenomena of PCB transfer from sediment to freshwater fish, we contribute to funding a study by Cemagref", says Romuald Berrebi, Onema deputy director for development. The work will serve to develop a model to simulate transfer between the sediment and fish in order to determine a sediment-contamination threshold under which the effects on fish are acceptable. "Any detected geographical correlations between sediment and fish contamination will serve to identify zones where sediment must be managed with caution", he notes.


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