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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

New data shows decreased tumor rate in Anacostia River bullhead catfish

Region 5, May 6, 2013
Lip tumor on brown bullhead catfish
Lip tumor on brown bullhead catfish - Photo Credit: n/a

A 2009-2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study in the Anacostia River shows that bullhead catfish have about half the percentage of tumors as those collected in 1996 and 2001.


Liver tumors are caused by polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are found in coal, oil and gasoline, with the most toxic compounds occurring when these fuels are burned.

It is possible that exposure to PAHs has decreased. However, because the last Anacostia sediment chemistry survey was in 2000, there are no current data
to evaluate.

Recent actions have reduced contamination in the watershed. These include: requiring a facility to capture PAH-contaminated ground water from a waste site before it enters the river; controlling oil inputs to the Hickey Run tributary; and reducing sediment erosion in the Watts Branch tributary.

For more information contact:
Fred Pinkney

Contact Info: Kathryn Reshetiloff, 410-573-4582, kathryn_reshetiloff@fws.gov