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EPA Releases List of State-Local Fish Advisories

For the 12th straight year, EPA is releasing its summary of information on locally-issued fish advisories and safe-eating guidelines. This information is provided to EPA annually by states, territories and tribes.

Pennsylvania’s fish advisories are available online.

States monitor their waters by sampling fish tissue for long-lasting pollutants that bioaccumulate. States issue their advisories and guidelines voluntarily and have flexibility in what criteria they use and how the data are collected. As a result, there are significant variations in the numbers of waters tested, the pollutants tested for and the threshold for issuing advisories. Based on self-reporting, the national trend is for states to monitor different waters each year, generally without retesting waters monitored in previous years.

The number of fish advisories is increasing even as emissions for major pollutants are decreasing and as pollutants such as DDT and chlordane are banned in the United States. In 2003, 48 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa issued 3,094 fish advisories, 280 more than the previous year. With these additions, 35 percent of the total lake acres and 24 percent of the river miles in the nation are now under advisory.

Since 2002, the number of lake acres under an advisory increased by two percent, river miles by nine percent and coastline by four percent. A large part of the increase in lake acres and river miles under advisory occurred because Montana and Washington issued statewide advisories for all their lakes and rivers in 2003 and Hawaii issued a statewide advisory for its entire coastline.

Human-caused mercury emissions in this country have dropped 50 percent since 1990, and the Bush Administration is in the process of choosing how to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants for the first time in our nation’s history. The final rule, which will be promulgated by March 15, 2005, will be one component of the Agency’s overall effort to reduce mercury emissions domestically and internationally.

States issue advisories for any of 40 different pollutants. Most advisories (98 percent) involve five bioaccumulative contaminants: PCBs, chlordane, dioxins, DDT and mercury. In addition to steps to reduce mercury emissions, actions have or are being taken to address other pollutants of concern: production of PCBs for use ceased in 1977, chlordane was banned in 1988, DDT was banned in 1972 and dioxin emissions have been dramatically reduced.

States may issue safe-eating guidelines in addition to issuing fish advisories. A fish advisory is issued to warn the public of the potential human health risks from chemical contamination of certain species from particular types of waterbodies such as lakes, rivers and/ or coastal waters within the state. In contrast, a safe-eating guideline is issued to inform the public that fish from specific waterbodies have been tested for chemical contaminants, and the fish from these waters are safe to eat without consumption restrictions.


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