Thursday, June 14, 2001

Some Ohio river fish too toxic

Health advisory tests various species, locations

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Children and pregnant or nursing women should not eat Ohio River paddlefish and large channel catfish and go lightly on other species, health officials said Wednesday.

        They cited continuing contamination from cancer-causing PCBs and heavy metals.

        Children, women of childbearing age and people who frequently eat fish are particularly susceptible to contaminants that build up in the body, such as PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — and mercury, according to a published warning.

   Fish consumption guidelines for Tristate section of Ohio River (with guidelines for children and pregnant or nursing women in parentheses):
    • Paddlefish and channel catfish over 21 inches, six meals per year (none).
    • Channel catfish under 21 inches, carp, striped bass, white bass and drum, one meal per month (six meals per year).
    • Sauger, black bass and flathead catfish, one meal per week (one meal per month).
        Contamination can be minimized by eating boneless, skinless fillets with as much fat as possible removed. But cooking does not destroy contaminants or make them less toxic. Nor does it reduce mercury levels, the warning said.

        The warning is an annual advisory about which Ohio River fish can be safely eaten and by whom. It has been slightly modified in recent years. Last year, paddlefish, also known as spoonbills, were taken off a “do not eat” list for most adults.

        The advisory is issued by three agencies — the Kentucky Department for Public Health, Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources — after reviewing results of tests on fish tissue.

        Results are from 1995 through 2000 for all listed species except paddlefish, which were sampled in 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Fish were collected from different areas of the river.

        For most species, the recommended limit was one meal per month. White crappie was the only species for which the advisory approved “unlimited” consumption by the general population.

        The advisory said eggs of fish should be discarded. Roasting, baking or broiling are the most effective cooking methods for reducing levels of PCBs and another carcinogen, chlordane.


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