What if the fish you were eating contained a hazardous toxin? Well, if your fish comes from the Lange and Revere canals off Lake St. Clair in Michigan, it probably does. The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) issued a “do not eat” advisory for all fish in the Lange and Revere canals back in 2011 because of unsafe PCB levels. PCB contamination was discovered in the Lange and Revere canals back in 2001. It’s been over a decade, and the contamination has still not been cleaned up. To make matters worse, eating just one meal of fish caught out of the Lange and Revere canals can give the diner 34 years’ worth of cancer-linked PCBs, according to MDCH research.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of toxic chemicals that were once widely used as industrial coolants and insulators. They are of concern because they concentrate in the environment and the food chain resulting in health hazards to humans, fish, and wildlife. PCBs are also linked to cancer and were banned in 1979 by the US Congress.
So, why has it taken so long for the PCB contamination in the Lange and Revere canals to be reversed? PCBs are very stable and do not readily decompose. They will withstand practically any type of destruction (e.g. physical, chemical, or microbial) done to them. Scientists have not found an efficient, financially practical, and environmentally safe method for PCB cleanup yet.
Currently, peptide modified Cu2O nanoparticles are being tested to catalyze the degradation of PCBs using green chemistry techniques, such as water splitting under visible light irradiation.