Report of the health risk assessment of seafood from Port Pirie River estuary

Summary of SA Health's human health risk assessment of contaminated seafood from the Port Pirie River estuary and surrounding waters

Finfish, crabs, mussels and razorfish taken by recreational fishing from the Port Pirie River estuary and surrounding waters contain levels of lead and cadmium metals above food safety guidelines. This is not unexpected given the long operation of the lead-zinc smelter and previous reports of significant contamination of the river sediment and marine animals that has been documented since the mid-1970s.

Lead and cadmium metals are harmful to health, especially the function of the nervous system and kidneys. Given the results of this report, it is recommended that exposure to these metals is prevented or kept as low as possible. Young children and people who are pregnant or considering pregnancy are extremely vulnerable to harm from lead. See the Port Pirie fishing health risks page for more information. 

The greatest overall risk of lead and cadmium harm was assessed from eating seafood species tested from Zone 1. Specifically, crabs and mussels from Zone 1 as well as razorfish from Zone 2 of the current fishing closure area were the most contaminated seafood tested during the 2020 survey. This is because these species live on the bottom of the river where the metal levels in sediments are high. Therefore, it is recommended that crabs and mussels  from Zone 1 and razorfish from Zone 1 and Zone 2 should not be eaten by anyone or used in cooking.

Other types of seafood including squid were not tested in the 2020 seafood survey but previous studies indicate they can also accumulate metal pollution.

The risk may be higher for some people if they eat this seafood including people who have chronic health conditions like diabetes and kidney disease, people who regularly eat more recreational catch than most and people who work with cadmium and lead in their occupation or hobbies.

The health risk assessment reported in the Metal concentrations in seafood from the Port Pirie River estuary: human health risk assessment and risk management shows that the lead and cadmium risk identified can be avoided by not eating seafood caught in these areas - this decision is most important for young children and people who are pregnant or planning pregnancy who should avoid eating all types of seafood caught in the Port Pirie River estuary and surrounding waters  because of the raised lead and cadmium levels.

The Report

Requesting a copy of the full report

Please email for more information about the risk assessment and to request the full report and appendices.