Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Ecotoxicology Research Areas


Dr. Nat Scholz
Program Manager
Staff Directory

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

The Ecotoxicology Program has studied bioavailability, bioaccumulation, metabolism, and toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for more than 40 years. Well over 100 peer-reviewed publications have resulted from this focal area. PAHs are very toxic to invertebrates and fish and their occurrence has only increased in the aquatic environment over time. Because these compounds are prominent in all urban estuaries due to road runoff, creosote pilings, combustion sources, and oil spills a concerted research effort has been sustained by NOAA scientists over the years.

The overriding goal within the Ecotoxicology program is to understand exposure to PAHs and characterize myriad toxic effects including, altered reproductive function, immunosuppression, growth impairment, developmental abnormalities, mutagenesis, hepatic lesion formation, and carcinogenesis with the goal of protecting aquatic species. Recent studies have examined effects on the immune system and impacts to growth and metabolic parameters in salmon and polar cod. Additional studies examined fluorescent aromatic compounds (FACs) in bile to characterize dose and toxicity and relate these to observed levels in field-collected fish. These data are used for Endangered Species Act consultations, Natural Resource Damage Assessments, and other risk assessments.

Program Contact

James Meador

Project Staff

Mary Arkoosh, Lyndal Johnson, John Incardona, James Meador, Sean Sol


NOAA Auke Bay Laboratories Habitat Assessment and Marine Chemistry Program
NOAA Fisheries Habitat Office
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Washington Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Washington State Department of Ecology
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site University of Tromsø (Norway)
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10


Curtis, L.R., Bravo, C.F., Bayne, C.J., Tilton, F., Arkoosh, M.R., Lambertini, E., Loge, F.J., Collier, T.K., Meador, J.P., and Tilton, S.C. 2017. Transcriptional changes in innate immunity genes in head kidneys from Aeromonas salmonicida challenged rainbow trout fed a mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 142:157-163.

Collier, T.K., Anulacion, B.F., Arkoosh, M.R., Dietrich, J.P., Incardona, J.P., Johnson, L.L., Ylitalo, G.M., and Myers, M.S. 2014. Effects on fish of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and naphthenic acid exposures. In: Organic Chemical Toxicity of Fishes. Tierney, K.B. (ed). pp. 195-255.

Bravo, C.F., Curtis, L.R., Myers, M.S., Meador, J.P., Johnson, L.L., Buzitis, J., Collier, T.K., Morrow, J.D., Laetz, C., Loge, F.J., and Arkoosh, M.R. 2011. Biomarker responses and disease susceptibility in juvenile rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss exposed fed a high molecular weight PAH mixture. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30:704-714.

Curtis, L.R., Garzon, C.B., Arkoosh, M.R., Collier, T.K., Myers, M.S., Buzitis, J., and Hahn, M.E. 2011. Reduced cytochrome P450lA activity and recovery from oxidative stress during subchronic benzo[a]pyrene and benzo[e]pyrene treatment of rainbow trout. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 254 (1): 1-7.

Carls, M.G. and Meador, J.P. 2009. A perspective on the toxicity of petrogenic PAHs to developing fish embryos related to environmental chemistry. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 15:1084–1098.

Johnson, L.L., Ylitalo, G.M., Myers, M.S., Anulacion, B.F., Buzitis, J., Reichert, W.L., Collier, T.K. 2009. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and fish health indicators in the marine ecosystem in Kitimat, British Columbia. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NWFSC-98.

Johnson, L.L., Arkoosh, M.R., Bravo, C.F., Collier, T.K., Krahn, M.M., Meador, J.P., Myers, M.S., Reichert, W.R., and Stein, J.E. 2008. The effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in fish from Puget Sound Washington. In: The Toxicology of Fishes. Di Giulio, R. and Hinton, D. (eds). CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, USA. Pp. 877-923.

Meador, J.P. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. 2008. In: Encyclopedia of Ecology. Jørgensen, S.E. and B.D. Faith (eds). Volume 4, pp. 2881-2891. Elsevier, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Meador, J.P., Buzitis, J., and Bravo, C. 2008. Using fluorescent aromatic compounds (FACs) in bile from juvenile salmonids to determine exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 27:845-853.

Myers, M.S., Anulacion, B.F., French, B.L., Reichert, W.L., Laetz, C.A., Buzitis, J., Olson, O.P., Sol, S.Y., Collier, T.K. 2008. Improved flatfish health following remediation of a PAH-contaminated Site in Eagle Harbor, Washington. Aquatic Toxicology, 88(4):277-288

Johnson, L.L., Ylitalo, G.M., Bolton, J., Brown, D., Kagley, A., Arkoosh, M., and Collier. T.K. 2007. Contaminant exposure in juvenile salmon (Onchorhynchus spp.) migrating through Pacific Northwest estuaries. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 124:167-194.

Meador, J.P., Sommers, F.C., Ylitalo, G.M., Sloan, C.A. 2006. Altered growth and related physiological responses in juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) from dietary exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63:2364-2376.

Meador, J.P. 2003. Bioaccumulation of PAHs in Marine Invertebrates. In: PAHs: An Ecotoxicological Perspective. Douben, P.E.T. (ed). John Wiley and Sons, Pubs. Chapter 9, pp. 147-171.

Myers, M.S., Johnson, L.L., Collier, T.K. 2003. Establishing the causal relationship between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure and hepatic neoplasms and neoplasia-related liver lesions in English sole (Pleuronectes vetulus). Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 9:67-94.

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