Last month, the States of Oregon and Washington jointly issued a warning to all residents to avoid eating some species of fish caught 150 miles along the Columbia River because of the high level of Mercury (chemical symbol Hg) and Poly Chlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) found in the water and fish.
This month the 2 states have issued a warning to pregnant women to avoid eating fish where there are pollution concerns. Washington now has statewide warnings in effect for Bass and Northern Pike Minnow.
Janette Brimmer with EarthJustice said that estimates for fish consumption (one 8 ounce serving of fish per month) per capita presented by the State of Washington are inaccurate. She added: “Even people that aren’t heavy consumers of fish are likely eating more than the standard and therefore, taking in more of these toxins than they should be”.
Why the concern? Well as consumers we tend to catch and enjoy the taste of a big fish. A bigger fish intake means more mercury ingested into our body system. Because water pollution regulations are lax, and there are no instructions or limits to the amount of fish to consume daily, people are at risk to mercury exposure.
What’s the impact? Mercury has both short and long term effects: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that mercury has seen shown to cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL even for relatively short periods of time: human nervous system damage, brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system damage. Human exposure to methyl mercury in the United States is probably increasing due to increased consumption of fish and fish products. A recent epidemiological investigation indicates high susceptibility to brain damage during prenatal exposures to mercury. An important objective for future investigation is to establish the lowest effect level for human exposure to methyl mercury.
Mercury is a relatively common toxic inorganic contaminant having Maximum Concentration Limits (MCL) in the parts per billion, rather than the typical MCL which is in parts per million. Mercury poisoning can result in several diseases, including acrodynia (pink disease), Hunter-Russell syndrome, and Minamata disease.
In conclusion, water regulations need to be reassessed. Awareness is essential to preserve our environment. Lack of sense of responsibility may take away some of the delicacies of life such as enjoying a 12 ounce medium cooked Salmon. If not our generation, it might very well be the next.