Phillips KN, Newcomb RC, Swenson HA, Laird LB. Water for Oregon. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, 1965.

Machala M, Blaha L, Lehmler HJ, Pliskova M, Majkova Z, Kapplova P, Sovadinova I, Vondracek J, Malmberb T, Robertson LW. “Toxicity of hydroxylated and quinoid PCB metabolites: inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication and activation of aryl hydrocarbon and estrogen receptors in hepatic and mammary cells.” Chemical Research in Toxicology. 2004 Mar; 17(3):340-7.

(Reviewed by Grace Wang)


Phillips et al conducted this survey of Oregon waters in 1965. The publication includes a brief introduction of the history and natural supplies of water. Then it explains in detail the location, water distribution and usage, tributaries, geological conditions, importance, and problems of each body of water, including rivers, streams, and lakes.

In the section specific to the Willamette River, the authors mention that the Willamette River is significant in that its basin contains 2/3 of Oregon's population. At the time of the survey, the Corps of Engineers was beginning to implement the Willamette River Basin Project, aimed to control floods, better use water resources, and improve water quality for fish. In the chapter titled “Water Purity,” the authors state that the US Public Health Service set up drinking water quality standards in 1962. Physical, chemical, and bacterial conditions of water are evaluated based on these standards. However, one potential problem implied in the chapter is that while some contaminants have a mandated limit, many others merely have a “recommended” concentration.

Iodine and fluoride are listed as chemicals required for human health. Parts of western Oregon had a goiter epidemic in 1920's due to iodine deficiency. Northwestern Oregon waters have fluoride deficiency, while some places in southwestern Oregon have had too much fluoride in the past, causing mottling of teeth. The authors identify pulp and paper mill wastes and sewage as the major sources of pollution, which deoxygenate the rivers. The authors suggest that people should conserve water in future uses.

Machala et al studied the effect of various forms of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) on human health. In the experiment testing the downregulation of gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC), the authors synthesized high molecular weight hydroxy-PCBs, and treated epithelial cell lines from rat livers and measured the rate of dye transfer in the gap junctions.

Several compounds are determined to be inhibitors of gap junctional communication, which commonly promotes carcinogenesis. In the test of cell aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhR) response to these PCBs, several compounds induced significant activation of these receptors in rat liver cell cultures. Another in vitro cell culture experiment show that several PCBs exhibit antiestrogenicity, causing a decline in estrogen receptor (ER) mediated activities. Chemical analyses show hydrophobicity (log P), molar volume, and molecular weight, and planar structure most correlate to toxicity of OH-PCBs.

The authors conclude that PCBs, a common environmental pollutant, especially high molecular weight OH-PCBs, are harmful to human health, as seen in their downregulartory effects on GJIC, inhibition of AhR, and antiestrogenicity. These effects tend to induce carcinogenesis in mammals.


The Phillips et al survey is a reliable source because it is a government publication. It covers a number of different topics of all Oregon waters. However, it does not provide details. In the section regarding pollution and human health, the authors briefly mention that there are standards for allowable concentrations of certain contaminants, but do not provide the actual numbers. Also, since it is published in 1965, it best serves as a historical document for comparisons with current studies. Since its publications, many modifications have been implemented, and views and understandings of the river and its uses have changed. At the end of the publication is a list of government agencies that can provide further information. However, it does not say how to contact these agencies. Overall, this is a good introductory source.

Machala et al provide a detailed study of the effects of PCB metabolites on mammalian cells on a molecular level. This study is highly reliable because it is published in a well-respected journal. Their studies include extensive controls and statistical analyses. Their study includes both chemical and physiological aspects, and offers possibly models of PCB interaction with cellular receptors. Since it is published recently, the study offers up-to-date understandings of this pollutant. Although this study does not specifically address problems of the Willamette River, it is applicable to our project because in a previous source (see Sethajintanin D, Johnson ER, Loper BR, Anderson KA. “Bioaccumulation Profiles of Chemical Contaminants in Fish from the Lower Willamette River, Portland Harbor, Oregon.” Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 2004 Jan; 46(1): 114-23), PCB is identified as a contaminant in fish that on average exceeds US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards. One drawback of this article is that it contains much scientific jargon, and thus may be difficult to understand without a science background.

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