Mt. Vernon Register-News

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January 24, 2011

Fish consumption advisory announced

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Public Health has announced consumption advisories for sport fish caught in the Big Muddy River and its tributaries, as well as other areas in the state.

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help people decide the types of fish to eat and how often,” IDPH Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold states. “Fish are a good source of high quality protein and other nutrients and are low in fat. However, contaminants may make some fish unsafe to eat except in limited quantities, particularly for women of childbearing age and young children.”

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program screens fish samples from about 40 bodies of water each year for contamination from 14 banned pesticides and industrial chemicals. The program is a joint effort of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Public Health.

Fish are collected by IDNR and tested by IEPA. IDPH issues an annual consumption advisory based on the IEPA results. Although there are no known immediate health hazard from eating contaminated fish from any body of water in Illinois, there are concerns about the effects of long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides and chemicals, such as chlordane, polychlorinated biphenyls — known as PCB’s, and methylmercury. Methylmercury has been found to cause reproductive damage and have adverse effects on the central nervous system, including developmental delays.

The advisories are based primarily on protecting sensitive populations, including women of childbearing age, pregnant women, fetuses, nursing mothers and children younger than 15 years of age.

Under the category of methylmercury, Big Muddy River and its tributaries located in Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Marion, Union, Washington and Williamson counties have been issued advisories. All sizes of largemouth bass should be limited to one meal per month for sensitive populations; one meal per week for all others. Crappie, all sizes, should be limited to one meal per week for sensitive populations; unlimited for all others. Carp, all sizes, should be limited to one meal per month for sensitive populations and unlimited for others.

The statewide mercury advisory cautions sensitive populations to eat no more than one meal per week of predator fish, which pose a greater risk because they feed on other fish and accumulate higher amounts of methylmercury. Predator fish include all species of black bass — largemouth, small mouth an spotted — striped bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, flathead catfish, muskellunge, northern pike, saugeye, sauger and walleye.

Women beyond childbearing age and males older than 15 years of age may eat unlimited quantities of predator fish, with the exception of fish caught from the 26 bodies of water that are on the special mercury advisory: Big Muddy River and tributaries, Arrowhead Lake, Campus Lake, Cedar Lake, Devil’s Kitchen Lake, DuPage River, Evergreen Lake, Heidecke Lake, Kinkaid Lake, Lake Bracken, Lake in the Hills, Lake Jacksonville, Lake Renwick East, Lake Sara, Little Grassy Lake, Little Wabash River and tributaries, Marquette Park Lagoon, Midlothian Reservoir, Monee Reservoir, Mt. Olive New City Lake, Nippersink Creek, Ohio River, Pana Lake, Rock River from Rockford to Milan Steel, Sam Parr Lake and the Wabash River.

Area fishing areas which are under advisory due to PCB levels include Raccoon Lake in Marion County for carp smaller than 23 inches, limited to one meal per week and larger than 23 inches limited to one meal per month. The Ohio River has three new advisories — channel catfish smaller than 18 inches limited to one meal per week, larger than 18 inches limited to one meal per month; carp smaller than 22 inches should be limited to one meal per week, larger than 22 inches limited to one meal per month; and all sizes of sauger should be limited to one meal per week.

The IDPH advises that anglers who vary the type and source of sport fish consumed, opting for younger, smaller fish and consuming leaner species such as walleye and panfish over fatty species such as carp and catfish, who prepare and cook fish in ways that reduce the amounts of contaminants, can limit their exposure to harmful substances.

Several ways to reduce any PCBs and chlordane present in edible portions of fish include remove the skin from the fillet and cut away any fatty tissue from the belly and dorsal areas before cooking; broil, bake or grill in a way that allows fat to drip away; and discard fat drippings or broth from broiled or poached fish. Do not use in other dishes. The precautions will not reduce the amount of methylmercury in fish. Mercury is found throughout a fish’s muscle tissue, the edible part of the fish, rather than in the fat and skin. Therefore, the only way to reduce mercury intake is to reduce the amount of contaminated fish eaten.

The full advisory can b found on the IDPH Web site, www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadv09/fishadvisory09.htm.

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