Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Updated fish consumption advice available

MADISON – Fish consumption advice has been updated for 2010 and the few minor changes made are reflected in “Choose Wisely: A Health Guide for Eating Fish in Wisconsin [PUB-FH-824, PDF 1.25MB],” now available online and at Department of Natural Resources service centers, state fish contaminant officials say.

DNR and the Department of Health Services jointly issue the advice to help anglers and their families enjoy eating fish they catch from Wisconsin waters or purchase, while reducing their exposure to environmental contaminants.

“Everybody who eats fish, whether they’re eating what they caught or what they bought at a store or restaurant, should review the updated advice and follow it to reduce their exposure to contaminants like mercury and PCBs,” says Candy Schrank, the toxicologist who coordinates the fish consumption advisory for the Department of Natural Resources.

People who frequently eat fish should choose fish species and sizes with the lowest levels of contaminants. Panfish and younger, smaller fish are best; older, larger predator and fatty fish accumulate the highest levels of contaminants.

“Fish are an inexpensive, low-fat source of protein that offer many other health benefits,” says Dr. Henry Anderson. “People should put their fish consumption habits in context with the advice found in ‘Choose Wisely.’ Most will find they do not have to change their current fish-eating habits.”

Because fish from most waters contain mercury, statewide safe-eating guidelines provide the same advice for most inland waters, but there are special exceptions for 102 lakes where higher levels of mercury have been found in fish, and for 49 river reaches where higher levels of PCBs and other chemicals have been found.

To update the advisory for 2010, DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission collected new mercury data from 58 sites and new data for PCBs and other chemicals for 31 locations, Schrank says.

These include the following lakes: Spider Lake in Iron County; Bass-Long Lake in Lincoln County; Three Lakes Chain in Oneida County; White Tail Flowage in Jackson County; and lakes Superior and Michigan. The Fox River between Little Lake Buttes des Morts and the De Pere Dam, the Milwaukee River from Grafton to Estabrook and the Estabrook Dam to the estuary on that river, and Pool 4 of the Mississippi River also have special advisories.

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60,000 children born each year in the United States may be at risk of neurological and learning problems because their mothers eat large amounts of mercury-contaminated fish and seafood during their pregnancy.

Studies have also found that infants and children of women who frequently ate fish contaminated with PCBs may have lower birth weights and be delayed in physical development and learning. PCBs in adults may affect reproductive function and the immune system, and are associated with cancer risk.

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