PEND OREILLE, Wash-- Specific types of fish from the Upper Columbia and Pend Oreille rivers contain toxic chemicals according to analysis of two recent studies.
Based on mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) contamination, the state Department of Health is advising people to avoid or limit certain types and amounts of fish they eat from the affected areas.
Certain types of fish from these areas contain toxic chemicals, and eating too much raises health risks, especially for pregnant women and kids.
The risks from mercury and PCBs depend on the amount of fish eaten and the levels of the contaminants in the fish. The chemicals can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted in fish, but by following the new health advice, people can get the benefits of eating fish and reduce their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury and PCBs.
Pend Oreille River fish consumption recommends Women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children not eat northern pike minnow or northern pike bigger than 24 inches. They recommend limiting northern pike smaller than 24 inches and smallmouth and largemouth bass to two meals per month.
The fish consumption advisory for the Pend Oreille River is based on mercury contamination in northern pike. Mercury is a natural element found in rocks and soil. Mercury spreads in the environment through industrial air pollution, mining operations, and improper disposal of products that contain mercury — including thermostats, electrical switches, and fluorescent light bulbs.
If a developing fetus or infant is exposed to high levels of mercury, the child may have learning and behavioral difficulties later in life. Although adults are less sensitive, it’s important that they also limit their exposure to mercury.
Upper Columbia and Lake Roosevelt fish consumption recommends women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children not eat northern pike minnow, limit largemouth bass and large-scale sucker to 2 meals a month, limit burbot, longnose sucker, mountain whitefish, smallmouth bass, and walleye to one meal a week. Women who don’t plan to have children or those beyond childbearing age, and all men should limit large-scale sucker to one meal per week due to PCBs.