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NEWS RELEASE-Dioxin in Whitefish

Citizens' Environment Alliance of SW Ontario & SE Michigan

3/25/99 for immediate release

New Dioxin Advisory Issued for Lake Erie Whitefish

Last week the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released the latest version
of the Guide to Sport Fishing in Ontario. Previous Guides have been highly
criticized by the public as being confusing and incomplete. It appears that
once again this will be the story.

Recently the Michigan Department of Community Health released the 1999
Fish Advisory which much like the Ontario Guide provides guidelines on
sizes of fish and number of meals of Great Lakes fish that are safe to
One significant change in the Michigan advisory is the new restrictions on
consumption of whitefish from Lake Erie. Prior to 1999, the general population
was permitted "unlimited consumption" of all sizes of whitefish from Lake
In 1998, sampling determined that dioxin levels in Lake Erie whitefish were
such that consumption for the general public should be limited to one meal per
week in smaller whitefish. In addition a warning of "do not eat these fish"
issued for whitefish more than 45 cm (22 inches) in length.  Women and
are advised to eat no Lake Erie whitefish. 

Unfortunately, the Ontario Guide to Eating Sport Fish only confuses the matter
further. The 1997/1998 guide had a 4 meal per monthrestriction on whitefish
to 26 inches) from the western basin of Lake Erie.In the 1999/2000 Ontario
Guide, recommended consumption of whitefish from the western basin of Lake
has been doubled to 8 meals per month (14-26” in length).  Women of
child-bearing age and children are allowed four meals per month of Lake Erie
whitefish 14-26” in length.   However, the new, relaxed guideline for eating
whitefish is not due to new data, but merely a lowering of restrictions by
Health Canada. Ontario Ministry of the Environment has not tested contaminants
in whitefish from Lake Erie for at least 5 years, in part due to the severe
cuts in staff to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the ministry that collects
the fish for testing. No guidelines are available for whitefish caught on
either side of the Detroit River despite the public reporting consumption.

Environmentalists, sport fishers and the general public have complained for
years about the discrepancies between the Ontario and Michigan guide.  The
glaring inconsistencies occur when different advice is given on whether Great
Lakes fish are edible or harmful depending on which side of the invisible
U.S./Canadian border the fish has been caught.

Not surprisingly, studies on public perception of the Ontario Guide to Eating
Sport Fish have found that the public is mistrustful of the information in the
Guide. What's more important is the Guide is only used by less than one third
of the targeted audience. Fishers in the Great Lakes need easy, reliable
information when consuming Great Lakes fish. Banning consumption is not the
answer, the public has a right to consume Great Lakes fish; a nutritious,
inexpensive source of protein with numerous health benefits. 

Sources of dioxin were traced as early as 1978 by the International Joint
Commission's Water Quality Board.  In 1987, a follow up report on dioxin
contamination in the Detroit River reported that dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD)
contamination in herring gull eggs and fish "remains elevated and is a cause
for concern". The report cited a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study
linking the increase in dioxin levels to the Detroit Waste Water Treatment
Plant's Sludge Incinerator  (one of the largest sources identified in a U.S.
National Dioxin Study).  Earlier this year the Citizens' Environment Alliance
pointed the finger at Detroit's sludge incinerator as a source of increasing
levels of mercury on the Detroit River.

Dioxin is the common name for a class of 75 chemicals. Dioxin has no
use. It is a toxic waste formed when chlorinated compounds are burned or when
products containing chlorine are manufactured. Dioxin is atmospherically
transported and can enter the food chain long distances from its point of
origin. Dietary sources of dioxin, which accounts for 90% of human exposure, 
are meat, dairy products, eggs, and fish. Dioxin is a proven human carcinogen.
Liver, lung, stomach, soft and connective tissue cancers as well as
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have all been associated with dioxin.  Dioxin also can
cause immune system effects, reproductive and developmental effects and
disruption. Environmental organizations have campaigned with the message that
there is no safe level for dioxin.

According to the U.S. EPA, key sources of dioxin are: hospital waste
incinerators, municipal waste incinerators, cement kilns, wood burning, metals
industry and *diesel vehicles, coal-fired utilities, and pulp and paper mills.
(* based on Norwegian study)

Contact:  Windsor: Rick Coronado     519-973-1116
Detroit: Mary Ginnebaugh 313-961-3345

GreenPlanet Social Justice & Ecology Network
315 Pelissier Street, PO Box 548, Windsor ON  Canada,  N9A 6M6
Voice:  519-973-1116  Fax 519-973-8360
E-mail:  riccawu@mnsi.net  
web page: http://www.mnsi.net/~cea