[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ NRDC report on contaminated fish

Enviro-Mich message from "MICHAEL W. MURRAY" <MURRAY@nwf.org>

NRDC released a report this week on fish consumption advisories
nationwide due to toxic chemical contamination, and called for several
measures, including greater efforts at pollution prevention, addressing
emissions to air, and efforts by EPA to develop minimum guidelines for all
states.  The press release follows.
    Mike Murray, NWF

For Release Wednesday, April 8, 1998    Contact:  Lisa Magnino, 10 a.m.



State fish advisories (recommendations to limit consumption of fish
caught primarily for recreation or subsistence due to chemical
contaminants) increased 70 percent between 1993 and 1996, yet,
despite some progress, current government efforts to manage the threat
of contaminated fish leave the public inadequately protected, according
to Contaminated Catch: The Public Health Threat from Toxics in Fish, a
report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

NRDC reports that in 1996, there were 2,194 advisories in 47 states;
only Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming did not have any advisories. 
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
the area covered by these advisories comprises 15 percent of all lake
acres and 5 percent of all river and stream miles in the U.S., 100
percent of the Great Lakes and their connecting waters, and a large
portion of the nation's coastal waters. 1996 is the most recent year for
which nationwide data are available. 

"More than 52 million, or one out of every five, people fish for sport
or subsistence," said Sarah Chasis, director of NRDC's water and
coastal program. "As fishing seasons open across the country, we
wanted to draw attention to the problem of contaminants in fish and
encourage the public to seek out information about fish contaminants in
their state." 

"Contaminants in fish are an important signal that toxic chemicals are
accumulating in our environment. The number of advisories and the
number of states issuing them are disturbing because it indicates that
there is a critical problem with contamination in many of our nation's
water bodies," continued Jessica Landman, NRDC senior attorney.

Eleven states (Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and
Vermont, and the District of Columbia) issued statewide advisories for
all their rivers and streams, or lakes, or both.  Statewide advisories
warn the public of potential widespread contamination of one or more
species of fish  in certain types of water bodies (for example, lakes or
rivers).   Seven states--Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine,
New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island--issued advisories for one or
morespecies covering all their marine waters. California, the nation's
most populous state, has no regular monitoring program for contaminants
in fish.

According to Contaminated Catch, state advisory programs vary in
quality. Some states conduct extensive sampling while others do much
less.  States also vary considerably in the methods they use to
estimate risks of consumption of contaminated fish, so that fish that
are under advisory in one state may not receive an advisory in another

"States are paying increasing attention to the widespread contamination
of fish," said Chasis.  "However, because of the inconsistency among
state programs and the lack of basic federal standards that must be met,
the public is not being protected as effectively as it should." 

In 1996, for lakes and streams only, states issued close to 800
advisories for different species and sizes of bass, nearly 200 advisories
for different species and sizes of crappie, and 434 for various kinds of
catfish. For saltwater, striped bass and bluefish were under advisory
from multiple states.
Approximately sixty-four percent  of the advisories issued in 1996 were
issued for mercury, with nine states having statewide warnings. 
Mercury causes damage to the nervous system and affects the
development of fetuses and infants. Coal-burning and waste incineration
plants are significant sources of mercury pollution. 

Approximately twenty-three percent of the advisories were for PCBs.
PCBs are considered to be probable carcinogens by the International
Agency for Research on Cancer and the EPA. PCBs, though banned
from use in new products in 1977, are in products still in use, in disposal
sites and in contaminated river, lake and ocean sediments.

"Fish is the most significant source of the mercury and PCBs that people
absorb into their bodies.  These and other contaminants pose a real
threat to people who regularly eat fish  from contaminated water
bodies," said Landman.  "The only effective long-term solution is to
develop and implement a strategy to eliminate the release of persistent
toxic substances.  In the interim, minimum national standards should be
established that all states must follow for detecting and advising the
public of the presence of contaminants in fish." 

NRDC also reported that eating commercial seafood instead of fish
caught recreationally does not necessarily protect the public from
consuming contaminated fish because of deficiencies in the Food and
DrugAdministration (FDA)protections for consumers of commercial
seafood sold in interstate commerce.  Three main areas of concern
include: limited monitoring, particularly of the 44 percent of our nation's
commercial seafood that is imported;  lack of publicity by FDA for its
advisories for swordfish and shark, for pregnant women and women
who expect to become pregnant; and the need for more attention to
tolerance levels. 

NRDC's recommendations include: preventing persistent pollution, paying
particular attention to air emissions; providing the public with
adequate information about contaminants; development and enforcement
of uniform national minimum standards for state programs by the EPA;
greater emphasis on protecting the public's health; and improved FDA
protection from contaminants in commercially caught or processed fish.  

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national non-profit
organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists
dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.  Founded in
1970, NRDC has more than 350,000 members, and offices in New York,
Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Visit NRDC at our web
site: http://www.nrdc.org.

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"