Induction of DNA strand breaks in the mussel (Mytilus trossulus) and clam (Protothaca staminea) following chronic field exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from the Exxon Valdez spill

Mar Pollut Bull. 2007 Jun;54(6):726-32. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.01.009. Epub 2007 Feb 27.


In 2002, 13 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, mussels and clams were examined for lingering oil exposure and damage. Known oil patches were sampled at four locations, and compared to nearby reference areas (same bay), and were also compared to "hot reference" sites to verify the methods used (Cordova harbor and fresh diesel spill at Port Chalmers). Passive samplers deployed for a month at the sites, along with tissue samples, confirmed that the oiled sites were oiled (fingerprinting back to Exxon Valdez oil) and that reference sites were clean. The highest PAH loads were detected in sub-surface interstitial waters at oiled sites. Exposure at the surface was generally low level, and probably intermittent. DNA damage was assessed in blood cells using sensitive comet analyses. DNA strand breakage was detected in both mussels and clams, with the highest level of damage detected at "hot reference" sites of Cordova harbor and Port Chalmers. Bioavailability and DNA damage at the oiled sties was low, indicating there has been substantial progress in recovery from the spill 13 years before, yet low level bioavailability and damage were still detectable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Alaska
  • Animals
  • Bivalvia / drug effects*
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Breaks*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Mytilus / drug effects*
  • Petroleum / toxicity*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Petroleum
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical