EPA: Toxic chemicals detected in U.S. freshwater fish

I grew up fishing with my father and brother, and though much of the time I was bored to tears, catching a big rainbow trout would always give me a rush. I assumed fish from a pristine mountain stream to be one of the healthiest meals on the planet, but as pollutants seep into our waters, the once healthy freshwater fish may pose a threat to us.

A new EPA study shows the detection of toxic chemicals in fish sampled from lakes and reservoirs in all 50 states. Game fish in 49 percent of lakes and reservoirs nationwide have mercury concentrations above EPA recommended levels. Potentially harmful levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in fish in 17 percent of lakes and reservoirs.

Mercury is a neurotoxin, and can impair neurological development in fetuses, infants, and children. Nearly all fish have some mercury in them, but certain types such as swordfish have higher levels. Fish contaminated with mercury also have higher levels.

PCBs are chemicals that accumulate in the fatty tissues of humans and animals. They are thought to cause health problems from skin rash and eye irritation to liver damage and reproductive effects. PCBs can be found in oils for equipment, surface coatings such as treatments for textiles, special adhesives, rubber seals and insulating materials, printing inks, and pesticides.

The EPA’s findings are disturbing, but fish still offer health benefits as a good source of protein filled with omega-3 fatty acids. You can keep up with which fish contain less mercury by visiting the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Consumer Guide to Mercury in Fish. They also have a link to check for advisories for contaminated fish in your state.

Take Action:

Sign petitions to support the Clean Water Protection Act with both the NRDC and Earthjustice. Check out Delicious Living’s lists of resources for information on the latest news, alerts, and legislation concerning clean water and fish.

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