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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2005

 

Contact: Karen Hershey
(609) 984-1795

 

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 power plants.

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 you catch.

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

 

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NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS)
http://www.nj.gov/health/

 

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Last Updated: July 27, 2005