Teratogenic effects and monetary cost of selenium poisoning of fish in Lake Sutton, North Carolina

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2014 Jun:104:160-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2014.02.022. Epub 2014 Mar 25.


Selenium pollution from coal ash wastewater was investigated in Lake Sutton, NC. This lake has been continuously used as a cooling pond for a coal-fired power plant since 1972. Historic and recent levels of contamination in fish tissues (14-105µg Se/g dry weight in liver, 24-127 in eggs, 4-23 in muscle, 7-38 in whole-body) exceeded toxic thresholds and teratogenic effects were observed in fish collected in 2013. A high proportion (28.9 percent) of juvenile Lepomis spp. exhibited spinal and craniofacial malformations that were consistent with selenium poisoning. Teratogenic Deformity Index values indicated population-level impacts on the fishery. The partially monetized cost of resultant fishery losses was calculated at over $US 8.6 million annually, and over $US 217 million for the entire period of damage, which dates back to 1987 when chemical and biological monitoring began.

Keywords: Coal ash; Damage cost; Damage value; Fish deformities; Selenium; Terata.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / chemically induced
  • Fishes / abnormalities*
  • Lakes*
  • Male
  • North Carolina
  • Poisoning / economics*
  • Poisoning / pathology*
  • Selenium / poisoning*
  • Spine / abnormalities
  • Teratogens
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / poisoning*


  • Teratogens
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Selenium