Updated Fish Consumption Advisories Issued for Tennessee

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | 07:00pm

Nashville, Tenn. – The Department of Environment and Conservation has announced several additions to Tennessee’s list of precautionary fish consumption advisories as a result of the trigger point for issuing a mercury advisory being lowered to 0.3 parts per million (ppm).

“Recent studies indicate that mercury has potential neurological effects on children at lower levels than previously thought,” said Paul Davis, director of the Division of Water Pollution Control. “Because of this new research and based on EPA’s new water quality criterion, the mercury advisory trigger point is being lowered to a more conservative level.”

State law requires the department to inform the public and post warnings where contaminants in fish pose a possible threat to people who might catch and eat them.

“Eating fish with elevated levels of mercury is a risk Tennesseans can avoid,” said Deputy Commissioner for Environment Paul Sloan. “Fishing advisories give fishermen and their families the information they need to make informed decisions about limiting their intake or avoiding fish from specific stream segments or bodies of water.”

Unlike “do not consume” advisories that warn the general population to avoid eating fish from a particular body of water altogether, precautionary fish consumption advisories are directed at sensitive populations such as children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and those who eat fish frequently from the same body of water.

Three existing advisories in Shelby, Loudon and Monroe Counties were modified to include mercury and seven new precautionary advisories for mercury were issued today. Two existing “do not consume” mercury advisories for the North Fork Holston River and East Fork Poplar Creek were not altered.

“It’s important to understand that the risk associated with these advisories pertains specifically to the consumption of fish,” said Davis. “Swimming and wading in these waters or catching and releasing fish are activities that do not expose the public to an increased risk from mercury. In addition, people should be mindful that fish are a generally healthy source of high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, low in saturated fat and contain omega-3 fatty acids. While contaminated fish should be avoided, fish remain an important component of a healthy diet.”

According to EPA, mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be found throughout the environment. Forest fires and human activities, such as burning coal, some industrial processes and waste incineration, have caused the amount of mercury in parts of the environment to increase. The primary way people in the U.S. are exposed to mercury is by eating fish containing methylmercury, a toxic form of mercury that accumulates easily in organisms.

“While our first priority is to warn the public about areas with fish that have elevated levels of mercury, we are also taking steps, such as a multi-agency study of mercury in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to try and determine if local sources of mercury have contributed to concentrations in Tennessee fish,” said Sloan.

Where new advisories have been issued, the department will immediately begin the process of putting up signs at primary public access points. The Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency also plan to work in partnership on the collection and analysis of additional fish tissue samples this summer.

For a complete listing of Tennessee’s current fishing advisories plus additional information about the advisory issuance process, visit: www.tdec.net/wpc/publications/advisories.pdf.

An EPA publication called “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish” is available in several languages at www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish.

For more information contact:

Dana Coleman
Office (615) 253-1916

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