"EPA: Toxic Chemicals in Freshwater Fish Widespread"

"Nearly half of lakes and reservoirs nationwide contain fish with potentially harmful levels of the toxic metal mercury, according to a federal study released Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency found mercury — a pollutant primarily released from coal-fired power plants — and polychlorinated biphenyls in all fish samples it collected from 500 lakes and reservoirs from 2000-2003. At 49 percent of those lakes and reservoirs, mercury concentrations exceeded levels that the EPA says are safe for people eating average amounts of fish.

Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children.

Fewer lakes and reservoirs — 17 percent — had fish containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, above recommended levels. PCBs were widely used as coolants and lubricants until they were banned in the late 1970s, but because they last in the environment for long periods of time, they can still be found in fish. PCBs have been linked to cancer and other health effects."

Dina Cappiello reports for the Associated Press November 10, 2009.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009