NEW JERSEY ISSUES EXPANDED
FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORIES
(05/103) TRENTON -- The Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health and Senior Services
(DHSS) today issued revised fish consumption advisories based
on recent data showing elevated levels of PCBs and mercury contamination
in fish samples taken from New Jersey's Passaic Region.
"New Jersey has a good reputation for fishing with a first
rate hatchery and stocking program and more than 4,000 acres of
protected open space for freshwater fishing," said DEP Commissioner
Bradley M. Campbell. "These new advisories allow families
to make informed decisions about the types and amounts of fish
that are good for their diet."
The updated advisories were prompted by the results of a DEP-commissioned
study by the Academy of Natural Sciences completed in 2004. The
results reconfirmed that mercury and PCB concentrations in fish
taken from the Passaic Region exceed advisory trigger levels,
and that existing advisories need to be expanded in order to provide
the appropriate level of warning and guidance for fish consumption.
"Fish is an important part of a healthy, well balanced diet,"
said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D.,
J.D. "But it's important to choose your fish wisely and take
steps to reduce your exposure to environmental contaminants such
as mercury and PCBs."
The Academy conducted an extensive study, collecting 382 fish
tissue samples from 28 freshwater lakes, reservoirs and rivers
within the Passaic Region. Based on the new data, DEP and DHSS
determined that six new water bodies in the Passaic Region require
the PCB advisories and three water bodies require expanded advisories
to include seven additional species of fish. The six new waterways
where elevated levels of PCBs were identified in fish tissue are:
Boonton Reservoir, Branch Brook Park Lake, Overpeck Creek, Pompton
Lake, Ramapo River and Weequahic Lake.
For mercury, DEP and DHSS issued first-time advisories for six
new water bodies and expanded advisories for an additional 15
species of fish in 18 water bodies. The new waterways with elevated
levels of mercury in fish tissue are: Boonton Reservoir, Branch
Brook Park Lake, Ramapo Lake, Shepherds Lake, Splitrock Reservoir
and Weequahic Lake.
The Passaic Region includes the watershed portions of Bergen,
Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex Counties that drain into the
Passaic and Hackensack Rivers. Samples were analyzed for mercury,
pesticides, PCBs and dioxin/furans. Fish tissue samples were taken
from previously sampled locations and new locations including
urban water bodies.
Long-term exposure to PCBs has been shown to cause a number of
serious health effects, including impacts on the nervous system
of developing fetuses, the immune system and the reproductive
system. PCBs are also considered a probable human carcinogen.
Mercury poses special health risks to pregnant women, women planning
to become pregnant, nursing mothers, unborn children, and children.
Mercury above certain levels can damage the nervous system of
developing children. In addition, long-term consumption of fish
with elevated levels of mercury by adults and older children may
result in adverse health effects, including neurological damage.
DEP passed stringent new regulations for controlling mercury
emissions from power plants in November 2004. These regulations
are the most comprehensive mercury standards in the nation, reducing
mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, iron and steel
melters, and solid waste incinerators by up to 90 percent by the
end of 2007. Although DEP is imposing tighter controls on facilities
in New Jersey, the state continues to receive a third of its air
pollution from out of state sources, particularly from Midwest
The best way to reduce exposure to contaminants in fish is to
learn what fish species are affected and either limit or avoid
consumption. However, if you choose to eat those species under
advisories, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure.
Contaminants tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue of the fish
Proper cleaning and cooking techniques, which remove some of
the fat from the fish, can significantly reduce levels of PCBs,
dioxins and other organic chemicals. Anglers should take note
however, that these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe
levels of mercury from these fish.
It has been three years since New Jersey last revised its public
warnings for unsafe mercury levels in freshwater fish and one
and a half years for PCBs. DEP and DHSS plan to periodically update
these advisories based on data generated from the Routine Fish
Monitoring Program for Toxics in Fish, which collects fish contaminant
data from five regions of the state on a rotating basis. In 2004,
the marine and estuarine waters of the state were monitored under
this program. When complete, this data will be used to update
the advisories for the marine and estuarine waters in 2006.
The revised 2005 fish consumption advisories and the Academy
of Natural Science report can found online at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/njmainfish.htm