This, of course, only applies to the people with amalgams .... 
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 This, of course, only applies to the people with amalgams ....

Sunday, April 22, 2001

Pa. fish advisory raises questions
Some say the advice that no more than one fish per week should be eaten may
mislead those at risk to toxins.

Paul Parnell displays trout caught in Wissahickon Creek. (Charles
By Jeff Gelles
When state officials recently warned people not to eat more than once a week
any fish caught by Pennsylvania sport fishermen, they said they were trying
to eliminate confusion about toxic contamination on the eve of trout season.
Peter A. Colangelo, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, said
the goal was "one overarching statewide advisory" that would "ensure that
Pennsylvanians heading out to our waterways can safely enjoy the fish they
But when it comes to fish caught in Pennsylvania waters, that goal may be
easier to state than achieve.
One reason is that before the statewide advisory, tougher warnings had
already been issued for species caught in particular lakes and streams,
largely because of contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) -
chemicals that have also been found in the state's hatchery trout.
This pertains mostly to fish caught by fishermen for their own personal
consumption and not typically distributed commercially.
Now, with the April 11 statewide advisory, Pennsylvania has made a quiet but
dramatic shift on mercury, another toxic substance that contaminates
state-raised fish. Mercury poses a special concern for those considered most
at risk, such as pregnant women, because it also contaminates fish caught
all over the world that end up in grocery stores and fish markets.
Two weeks ago, the entire state had one lone warning about mercury in fish:
Walleyes bigger than 19 inches caught in Lake Wallenpaupack, in the state's
northeast corner, should not be eaten.
The state cited concerns about mercury contamination in recommending that
people limit consumption of all fish from Pennsylvania to once a week. The
state has also issued more than 100 specific warnings about fish that show
especially worrisome levels of mercury. Those fish should be eaten no more
than once or twice a month, the state says.
Warnings about fish contamination carry special significance for some
people, especially women who are pregnant or of childbearing age, nursing
mothers and young children. Mercury and PCBs have been linked to
developmental delays in fetuses and children.
In severe cases, mercury poisoning can also cause serious neurological
disorders and kidney damage.
PCBs, known to cause cancer in laboratory animals, are considered a probable
human carcinogen, said Michael Murray, an environmental chemist and expert
on PCBs and mercury for the National Wildlife Federation. It is one of the
environmental groups that has warned of the spread of mercury and PCBs
through the">food chain.
Environmentalists have long said that Pennsylvania lags other states in
facing the problem of contaminated fish.
When the overall advisory was announced April 11, the state was under
pressure from PennFuture, an environmental and consumer-advocacy
organization, to reverse a declaration last month that the state's 2.4
million hatchery trout were safe to eat in unlimited quantities.
The group said the state was misinterpreting data, and the Department of
Environmental Protection conceded that much. But it finessed the issue by
issuing the general advisory, linking it to mercury but saying it covered
all concerns.
Last week, environmentalists said they welcomed Pennsylvania's tougher
standards on mercury - an issue on which they had criticized the state.
In a report issued in December titled "Pennsylvania's Killer Catch: The
Threat to Human Health From Eating Pennsylvania's Fish," the Clean Air
Council took the state to task for its relative silence about mercury, a
particular problem in Pennsylvania because of emissions from older
coal-fired power plants.
Despite having the nation's highest levels of mercury air pollution, the
report said, and despite mercury levels in precipitation "far beyond those
considered acceptable in the nearby Great Lakes states," Pennsylvania then
had the least stringent advisories on mercury contamination of all the
Northeast and Midwestern states.
"Pennsylvania is failing to inform its population of these dangers," the
report concluded.
In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued nationwide
warnings, advising pregnant women and others at risk to limit consumption of
locally caught fish to one meal per week when stricter limits are not in
"This is big news - the fact that you have a lot of water bodies in
Pennsylvania that have new mercury warnings on them," said Felice Stadler,
policy coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation's Clean the Rain
Campaign. She said she had long been puzzled that Pennsylvania officials had
issued few mercury warnings. "Now they've looked, and, lo and behold, the
problem was much bigger than they originally thought."
But Stadler and others said the state's attempt to draw "one overarching
advisory" to cover all contaminants and all game fish runs the risk of
misleading the public, especially those most vulnerable to the dangers of
"It's not accurate to say that every Pennsylvanian can eat one meal per week
of locally caught fish and be safe," Stadler said.
Nor are locally caught fish the only problem for those concerned about
The federal">food and Drug Administration, in a joint announcement with the
EPA in January, warned pregnant women and those who may become pregnant not
to eat several species of commercial fish - shark, swordfish, king mackerel
and tilefish - because their high levels of mercury could damage fetal
nervous systems. It also recommended that nursing mothers and young children
follow the same advice.
The agency said other commercial fish should also be eaten sparingly,
despite the acknowledged health benefits of fish. It suggested that people
"select a variety of other kinds of fish - including shellfish, canned fish,
smaller ocean fish or farm-raised fish" but limit consumption to 12 ounces
per week of cooked fish. It said a typical serving of fish is 3 to 6 ounces.
If at-risk people eat that much commercially bought fish in a week, federal
officials said, they should avoid eating locally caught fish entirely.

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