Human health and environmental impacts from Pfiesteria: A Science-based rebuttal to Griffith (1999)

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Parke A. Rublee, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: David Griffith began his article, ?Exaggerating Environmental Health Risk: The Case of the Toxic Dinoflagellate Pfiesteria? (Human Organization 58:119-127). with a quotation by Angell (1995) which notes that assuming a connection between an effect and a cause, and then searching for it, is an inefficient approach that can lead to bias. Griffith clearly implied this was the approach Burkholder and her colleagues took to link Pfiesteria to human health problems. Griffith was in error. The approach Drs. Burkholder. Noga, and others took began with an observation of fish dying in aquaria. followed by identification of the cause as an unknown dinollagellate (Burkholder et al. 1992; Noga et al. 19931. It was then hypothesized that this organism could potentially cause fish kills in the environment. This was followed by its identification in field samples at fish kills (Burkholder et al. 1992; Noga et al. 1996) and searches of historical records that suggested it also was a potential cause of some (but not all) fish kills during the years when phytoplankton count records were maintained. The association with human illness came after laboratory workers became mildly to seriously ill, and their symptoms were similar to those reported by watermen (Glasgow et al. 1995). Because of the potential for human health problems in nature. they called for studies. Initial questionnaires used to begin to address the potential for health problems from Pfiesteria in North Carolina yielded little definitive information (see Oldach, Grattan, and Morris 1999). Later, clinical studies by physicians from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins on individuals with confirmed exposure to toxic Pfiesteria outbreaks demonstrated cognitive impair-ment lasting up to six months (Grattan et al. 1998). It is also important to note that the long-term impact of exposure to these toxins is still unknown.

Additional Information

Human Organization
Language: English
Date: 1999
David Griffith, Dinoflagellate Pfiesteria, algae

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