High DDT Levels Linked to Fish Eating

Times Staff Writer

A pilot study of 15 people who eat large quantities of fish caught from Southern California piers has revealed DDT levels in their bloodstreams 3 to 10 times higher than the national average, four local scientists have told a legislative panel.

Harold Puffer, associate professor of pathology at USC, said the study results will be used to seek funding for a broader state-sponsored study of people who rely on local fish for a significant part of their diet.

Puffer, speaking Friday in Santa Monica at a hearing of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, said that while the results are preliminary, they indicate that “fish eating is a primary way that DDT is working its way into people” in Southern California.


Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) urged that the state fund a yearlong, multiagency study of local fish contamination and its effects on public health, saying the possibility that the pilot study results are merely coincidental “is one in 1,000.”

Puffer and three other scientists drew blood in September from 21 people, including 15 who ate fish caught at sites ranging from Long Beach’s Belmont Pier on the south to Santa Monica Pier on the north. The remaining six participants ate fish infrequently, and do not catch fish at local piers, he said.

According to the study, DDT levels in the 15 people averaged 34.6 parts per billion, compared to the national average of 3.3 ppb. The other six had an average of 11.2 ppb of DDT in their bloodstreams, Puffer said.