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Comparison of concentrations and profiles of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites in bile of fishes from offshore oil platforms and natural reefs along the California coast

January 5, 2013

To determine the environmental consequences of decommissioning offshore oil platforms on local and regional fish populations, contaminant loads in reproducing adults were investigated at seven platform sites and adjacent, natural sites. Specimens of three species (Pacific sanddab, Citharichthys sordidus; kelp rockfish, Sebastes atrovirens; and kelp bass, Paralabrax clathratus) residing at platforms and representing the regional background within the Santa Barbara Channel and within the San Pedro Basin were collected. Some of the most important contaminant classes related to oil operations are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) because of their potential toxicity and carcinogenicity. However, acute exposure cannot be related directly to PAH tissue concentrations because of rapid metabolism of the parent chemicals in fish; therefore, PAH metabolites in bile were measured, targeting free hydroxylated PAHs (OH-PAHs) liberated by enzymatic hydrolysis of the bound PAH glucuronides and sulfates. An ion-pairing method was developed for confirmatory analysis that targeted PAH glucuronides and sulfates. Concentrations of hydroxylated PAHs in all samples (76 fish from platforms and 64 fish from natural sites) were low, ranging from less than the limits of detection (5 to 120 nanograms per milliliter bile; 0.03 to 42 nanograms per milligram protein) to a maximum of 320 nanograms per milliliter bile (32 nanograms per milligram protein). A previously proposed dosimeter of PAH exposure in fish, 1-hydroxypyrene, was not detected at any platform site. Low concentrations of 1-hydroxypyrene were detected in 3 of 12 kelp rockfish collected from a natural reef site off Santa Barbara. The most prevalent OH-PAH, 2-hydroxyfluorene, was detected at low concentrations in seven fish of various species; of these, four were from two of the seven platform sites. The greatest concentrations of 2-hydroxyfluorene were found in three fish of various species from Platform Holly and were only about threefold above low, yet quantifiable, concentrations found in three fish from Horseshoe Reef, East Anacapa Island, and Coche Point natural sites; the mean concentrations among all sampling sites were not measurably different.