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IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1/28/03
03/5

Contact: Amy Cradic
609-984-1795

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 (PCBs).

"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 families."

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 sunfish.

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 guidelines.

"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 of PCBs.

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 advisories.

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 consumption recommendations for certain fish in particular regions and 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.

 

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