Warning! Mercury Contaminates Every Fish Says National River Study

August 19, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A new study found every fish tested in our rivers and streams contaminated with high levels of mercury. The contamination is caused by pollution from dirty energy sources, particularly coal-fired power plants and sends a clear message that “…our country must continue to confront pollution,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, testing top-predator fish, bed sediment and water from 291 U.S. streams and rivers across the country. The alarming results showed one in four of every fish tested had unsafe levels of mercury for people who eat average amounts of fish.

Some of the most hazardous levels of mercury were found “blackwater” streams in the Southeast, including North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. These streams are particularly vulnerable to mercury poisoning, because the watershed contains abundant wetlands.

Our wetlands, which are part of a vital ecosystem, easily convert mercury into its toxic form of methylmercury. High levels of mercury were also found in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, and in streams in the West located near gold and mercury mines.

Methlymercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, which rapidly accumulates in the vital organs of people and animals, damaging nerve systems. Lead researcher, Barbara Scudder warned that methlymercury could cause severe birth defects, learning disabilities, memory loss and mental impairment.

Scudder cautioned consumers to avoid eating predatory fish, such as large-mouth bass, pickerel, walleye and catfish. Once mercury enters a fish it “bio- magnifies” and intensifies “up the food chain,” said Scudder.

Pregnant women eating contaminated fish run the risk of poisoning their unborn children with methlymercury and should avoid it.

Our rivers, streams and fish will continue to become poisoned from our country’s continued reliance on dirty energy sources. Amy Kober, a spokeswoman for American Rivers said, “We cannot continue to have these dirty energy sources that are not only contributing to global warming but to public health problems.”

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