Americans were cautioned about eating fish from more than one-third of U.S. lakes and nearly one-fourth of its rivers last year due to pollution from mercury and other chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday.
Nationwide, about 102,000 lakes and about 846,000 river miles were under fishing advisories in 2003, the EPA said in its annual report. Fishing advisories are issued by states if high concentrations of mercury, dioxin, DDT or three dozen other chemicals harmful to humans are found in local fish. The advisories range from an outright ban on all fishing to restrictions on certain species or sizes of fish.
Most of the new fishing advisories issued last year were due to mercury pollution from coal-fired utilities, the EPA said. Mercury emissions in the air can pollute nearby streams and lakes, contaminating local fish.
The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration recently advised pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid some types of fish that may contain higher levels of mercury which is harmful to developing nervous systems, informs Reuters.
"It’s about trout, not tuna. It’s about what you catch on the shore, not what you buy off the shelf," said EPA chief Mike Leavitt. "This is about the health of pregnant mothers and small children, that’s the primary focus of our concern."
But he also said that nearly every time state officials check for pollution, they find it, meaning that eventually almost the entire United States could have fish advisories.
Leavitt said emissions of mercury from human activities dropped about 45 percent from 1990 to 1999, but he did not provide more recent figures. Pollution from mercury comes from industry such as coal-fired power plants, the burning of hazardous and medical waste, and production of chlorine. It also occurs naturally in the environment, says MCNBC News.
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