contributed to the contamination. That area of the Fox River is a popular sport fishing area, but more impor-
tantly, provides a subsistence fishing area for the Hmong and Oneida Tribe populations that reside nearby. The
PCBs in the fish pose a health hazard for people who eat the fish, especially those who depend on the fish as
their main protein source. Unborn babies can be exposed to PCBs through the mother's blood, and infants are
exposed through breast milk. Children who are exposed to PCBs might have more trouble learning in school.
For that reason both the Hmong and Oneida people have changed their diets so that they can comply with the
fish consumption advisories. Both communities feel that they are now experiencing other adverse health effects
because they have had to change their diet. With support from ATSDR, WDHFS is providing both communities
with ways they can prepare and eat fish while lowering the amount of PCBs they consume.
A health consultation is a written or oral response from ATSDR to a specific request for information about health
risks related to a specific site, chemical release, or hazardous material. It is a more limited response than a public
health assessment. To date, 128 documented health consultations have been conducted at 77 sites in Wisconsin.
Following is an example of a health consultation conducted in the state.
Ashland - One area contaminated by a former manufactured gas plant is Ashland. The coal gasification (manu-
factured gas) facility operated on St. Claire Street, near Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior in Ashland. The Bay
and surrounding property, Kreher Park, are contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and
with volatile organic compounds. Through the ATSDR cooperative agreement, WDHFS issued
a health consul-
tation in 1995 that provided the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with information about health
effects. These effects include skin and eye irritation, increased risk of severe sunburn, headaches, dizziness, and
stomach upset, which might be expected if people contact PAHs present in soil and sediment. As a result, signs
have been posted at the Bay to prevent boats from weighing anchor, thus disturbing the sediment and causing
oily releases, and warning signs have been posted at Kreher Park. Artesian well water that is used by many area
residents was tested and found safe. The well water is periodically tested as recommended in the health consulta-
tion. Additionally, WDHFS identified workers of the former Ashland waste water treatment plant as the people
their exposure histories and health status. ATSDR also issued results of an exposure investigation done to
evaluate whether fish were safe to eat. The Governor now has a request to the U.S. EPA that Ashland
Lakefront/Northern States Power (NSP) site be added to the NPL. A response is pending.
An exposure investigation collects information
on specific human exposures through biological sampling, personal
monitoring, related environmental assessment, and exposure-dose reconstruction. Following is an example of an
exposure investigation conducted in Wisconsin.
Chequamegon Bay - In October 1999, ATSDR issued results of the "Fish Tissue Exposure Investigation for
Contaminated Sediments" conducted by WDHFS at this site through a cooperative agreement with ATSDR.
Fish tissue samples were collected from the Bay and tested for PAHs. The fish did not contain PAHs at levels that
would be harmful, but that area of Lake Superior has a fish advisory in effect for PCBs and mercury. The
document warns that although the fish do not contain PAHs at unsafe levels, the fish consumption advisory
should be followed. Also, contact with sediments should be avoided as much as possible because PAHs can
cause skin and eye irritation and can increase the risk of getting severe sunburn.
Educating Health Professionals and Community Activities
ATSDR awards cooperative agreements to states to support educational activities for health professionals and
communities about human exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. In Wisconsin, more than 1,200
health professionals have been contacted through site-specific Grand Rounds and other training. Presentations on risk
communication and educational sessions have been conducted for various communities concerning handling and
ingesting fish with possible toxic contamination. Both the Fox River and Ashland Lakefront/NSP sites provide
excellent examples of how ATSDR provides WDHFS cooperative agreement staff with support to conduct health
education designed to help other agencies and the public.