New Health Advisories
Call for Limited Consumption of Certain Fish:
State Assures Public that Fish Remain a Good Source of Nutrition
(03/5) TRENTON - The Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of
Health and Senior Services today issued new advisories that
outline safe eating practices and warnings for 13 species
of fish containing elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls
"These advisories let the public make
an informed choice about the amount of fish in their diet
in light of potential health risks associated with PCBs,"
said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "While these
measures provide essential safeguards, particularly for
pregnant women and young children, eating fish remains an
important part of a well-balanced diet. Our recreational
fishing industry will continue to play a key role in the
state' s economy and provide a stable food source for our
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.
The new advisories were prompted by the
results of a DEP-commissioned study conducted by the Academy
of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia released to the public
in July 2002. New statewide consumption advisories have
been established for American eel, bluefish and striped
bass. The statewide advisory for American lobster established
in 1996 did not change. Additional location-specific advisories
have been revised for blue crab, white perch, white catfish,
channel catfish, common carp, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed
sunfish, brown bullhead, bluegill sunfish and redbreast
Fish consumption advisories are developed
through a scientific process that includes collecting samples
of fish and crustaceans from waters throughout the state
and analyzing the uncooked tissue for various chemical contaminants.
Consistent with advisories issued for mercury
fish in July 2002, the new consumption guidelines reflect
more updated data and a more protective approach based solely
on human health risks. The new advisories are 20-to-200
times more stringent than the previous FDA-based consumption
"These new advisories provide the
public greater protection than previous consumption guidelines,"
said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R.
Lacy, M.D. "People can continue to reap the nutritional
benefits provided by eating fish and significantly reduce
their exposure to harmful chemicals."
Consumption guidelines for several fish
species were last issued for PCBs by the DEP in 1989. These
new advisories inform the general public of a range of risks
based on fish sizes and meal frequencies. The range reflects
a person's risk of getting cancer, which is estimated at
1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100,000, from regularly eating raw,
PCB-contaminated fish over a lifetime. The advisories are
more stringent for high-risk individuals, including infants,
children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and women of childbearing
age, who may be more sensitive to other harmful effects
In addition to following consumption guidelines
provided as part of the advisories, individuals can significantly
reduce their exposure to PCBs (by approximately 50 percent)
by properly cleaning and cooking fish. The size of the fish
consumed and the variety of fish that a person eats over
time also impact exposure risks. Specific preparation and
cooking recommendations to lessen PCB exposure are provided
on the attached fact sheet.
PCBs were first used in transformers and
other electrical equipment and were later incorporated into
other uses such as printing inks, paints and pesticides.
The manufacturing of PCBs was stopped in 1979 as a result
of evidence that PCBs build up and persist for long periods
of time in the environment, the food chain and humans, causing
harmful effects. Once they enter the food chain they have
a tendency to absorb into fat tissue of fish and wildlife.
When humans consume foods such as fish that have already
accumulated PCBs, the PCBs in those food items accumulate
in their bodies. Ultimately, the highest PCB levels are
found in those species at the top of the food chain.
DEP data indicates that PCB levels have
declined in some species and regions examined since the
1979 ban on PCB manufacturing. However, despite the fact
that the manufacturing of PCBs was banned more than 20 years
ago, PCBs still exist in sediments, particularly in the
state's ocean waters.
"The persistence of PCBs in fish reinforces
Governor McGreevey's opposition to ocean dumping of contaminated
sediments and his call to EPA to finalize regulations that
protect New Jersey's coast from material with excessive
PCB levels," added Commissioner Campbell.
In addition to those species listed in
the statewide advisories, the waterways with fish populations
impacted by elevated levels of PCBs that are identified
in the new advisories include: Newark Bay Complex*,
Hudson River, Raritan Bay Complex, Coastal Tributaries (including
the Shark, Navesink, Shrewsbury, Toms, and Mullica Rivers)
and the Lower Delaware River - Estuary & Bay. In Camden
County, advisories were established for the Pennsauken Creek
at Forked Landing, Evans Pond, the Cooper River spillway
below Evans Pond and at Hopkins Pond, Cooper River Lake,
Newton Lake, Strawbridge Lake and Stewart Lake. Advisories
are also listed for the Passaic River, Passaic/Bergen counties,
and the entire length of Bound Brook (including Market Pond
and Spring Lake), Somerset County.
If a specific fishing site is not identified
within an advisory, this does not mean the fish are free
of contamination. Not all New Jersey waterways have been
tested and not all fish species were found in all water
bodies. At a few locations, available data were insufficient
to list a species for a specific water body. In these cases,
individuals should follow guidelines outlined in the statewide
The Department of Environmental Protection
is launching an expanded public outreach campaign to better
inform anglers and the general public about risks associated
with eating certain fish taken from waters around the state.
These efforts will require all locations that issue state-fishing
licenses to provide, along with the license, a new comprehensive,
easy-to-use booklet of fishing advisories currently being
developed by the DEP.
A priority in its outreach efforts, the
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is actively
working with adjacent states to develop common advisory
messages for the public and to establish advisory consistency
for affected fish in shared waters. Commissioner Campbell
is currently working with Delaware and Pennsylvania to establish
consistent fish consumption advisories in the Delaware estuary
under the Delaware Estuary Program.
Copies of the advisories that provide
recommendations for certain fish in particular regions
waterways throughout the state are available on the DEP
website at: www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/njmainfish.htm.
In addition to the updated PCB fish consumption advisories,
the DEP recently issued advisories warning people about
unsafe mercury levels found in 21 species of freshwater
fish from water bodies around the state.
* In the Newark Bay Complex,
new consumption guidelines - based upon PCB levels - were
established only for American eel, white perch, and white
catfish. Previous consumption guidelines based upon dioxin
levels remain in effect for the fish in the complex, which
includes the Passaic River downstream of the Dundee Dam.