Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Importance of the Great Lakes. (Correspondence)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Importance of the Great Lakes. (Correspondence)

Article excerpt

The article by Knap et al., "Indicators of Ocean Health and Human Health: Developing a Research and Monitoring Framework" (Knap et al. 2002), was a welcome overview of issues that link the environmental condition of marine/ocean ecosystems and human disease. The complement to the growing concern about the connection between health and the marine environment is a corresponding emphasis on large freshwater lake ecosystems and human health.

In the United States and Canada, for example, the Great Lakes basin contains a set of inland seas that are oceanographic in scale. They serve as a highway for international maritime commerce and support a $1 billion/year recreational and commercial fishing industry. In addition, they must also supply drinking water for over 15 million people.

The Great Lakes hold about 20% of the world's surface freshwater. In this context, the degradation of the Great Lakes ecosystem through chemical and biological contamination presents an enormous challenge for the future. Questions about the impact of methyl mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other chemicals on the health of those who eat fish from the Great Lakes; about the role of bacterial loading of coastline beaches on disease; and about the quality of drinking water taken from the lakes are among those in need of intense study. …

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