September 20, 2013
Concord, NH – New Hampshire was recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) with the 2013 Scientific Collaboration of the Year award in a ceremony recently. The award is in recognition of the work the New Hampshire Public Health Labs (PHL) performed in partnership with Vermont and Massachusetts to test freshwater fish for man-made radioisotopes.
The award noted the fish study as being “pro-active and excellent work in collaboration with state partners for enhancing public health and safety.” The PHL coordinated the fish sampling with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and worked with the FDA Winchester Engineering Analytical Branch (WEAC) laboratory for strontium-90 (Sr-90) testing.
Dr. Christine Bean, PHL Director, attended the ceremony and accepted the award on behalf of the State of New Hampshire. “It is a great honor to be recognized for all the hard work the Lab has put into this project and all the effort by our staff on behalf of the citizens of New Hampshire,” said Bean. “It has been a rewarding partnership among New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts and hopefully this will help us respond to any future threats we may face.”
Strontium-90 (Sr-90) is a radioactive isotope that is commonly part of fallout from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing and the Chernobyl incident. The vast majority of this radionuclide comes from weapons testing, and fallout has resulted in Sr-90 becoming a part of the background environment of radionuclides.
In 2010, the State of Vermont collected and tested a fish that was caught in the Connecticut River approximately 8 miles upstream from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. The fish was found to have a slightly elevated level of Sr-90, although the level was below the FDA safe limit for fish consumption. At this time, the three states recognized the need to define the environmental levels of Sr-90 in fish. A multi-state project began to evaluate these background levels in fish found in freshwater bodies in Northern New England that are not connected to the Connecticut River and therefore are not under the influence of the nuclear power plant. Knowing these background levels will enable the states to compare findings to levels that are expected.
For more information about testing and the NH Public Health Labs, visit http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/lab/index.htm. To learn more about the DHHS Radiological Health Program visit http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/radiological/index.htm.