Mercury and Fish Consumption Advisory

Click here to read about how EPA will propose a rule to regulate dental mercury. EPA is also proposing to cut Mercury Emissions from Sewage Sludge Incinerators.

Fish Safe • Eat Safe


The Ohio Department of Health advises that all persons limit consumption of sport fish caught from all waters in Ohio to one meal per week, unless there is a more restrictive advisory. Fish advisories are issued by state and federal agencies to warn the public about the dangers of eating certain contaminated fish and to help people make choices about where to fish, what types of fish to eat, how to limit the amount and frequency that fish is consumed, and how to prepare fish for cooking.

Fish and shellfish can contain levels of toxic contaminants such as traces of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants that can harm an unborn or young child's developing nervous system if eaten regularly. By being informed about mercury and PCBs and knowing the kinds of fish that are safe to eat, you can prevent harm. The National Academy of Sciences warns that children exposed to unsafe levels of mercury and PCBs in utero by their mother's fish consumption are at greater risk of falling into the group of children "who struggle to keep up in school and who might require remedial classes or special education." (NAS 2001)

Click below to download a brochure, "Eat Safe, Fish Safe: A Family's Guide to Protecting Your Health," containing information about contaminants in fish, how to reduce your exposure, trimming and cooking fish, advice on what kinds and how much fish to eat, and more.
English (PDF)
Spanish (PDF)

Click below to download a poster, "Do You Eat Fish?," containing information on fish caught from local waters as well as fish from a restaurant or store. A three-tiered chart provides information on fish lower, moderate and higher in mercury contamination to help you choose safer types and amounts of fish to eat.
English (PDF)
Spanish (PDF)

Listen to the Plain Dealer's Michael Scott's Video Clip on Mercury in Lake Erie. Click here to download a pdf file of Michael Scott's article, "Lake Erie Mercury Levels Concern Environmentalists."

The Ohio Department of Health, The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources cooperatively issue annual advisories. For more information on the 2008 Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory click here. You can access fact sheets, a one-page summary of advisory information in English, Spanish, Chinese or Korean, a searchable waterbody map, fish trimming and cooking tips, an overview of Ohio's fish tissue sampling and monitoring program, and more.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for commercial fish advisories (fish purchased in a grocery store or consumed in a restaurant). In March 2004 the US EPA and the FDA jointly issued a national mercury-related advisory for fish and shellfish from store-bought fish and fish served in restaurants. This advice is for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children. US EPA and FDA recommend that women of childbearing age and children limit their intake of fish, including store bought fish and tuna, to 2-3 meal per week (12 oz. of fish for an adult woman). Click here for more information.

Warning

Mercury and PCBs may pose greater risk to babies and young children. It is important for women who are pregnant, or might become pregnant, breast-feeding women and young children to follow recommendations to reduce exposure.

Mercury is a neurotoxicant that can impact fetal and childhood development and impair brain function. Mercury accumulated in all portions of the fish but mostly in the muscle and cannot be reduced by proper trimming or cooking. Reduce your exposure by limiting your consumption.

PCBs are probably human carcinogens that can affect the behavioral development of children (including IQ damage and damage to immune systems). PCBs accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish and can be removed with proper preparation and cooking.
Mercury and PCBs can cross the placenta to affect your child's nervous system. including the brain. After childbirth, these contaminants can reach your child through breast milk. (Consult your doctor. The benefits of breastfeeding your baby outweigh the risks.)

Mercury

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and is also released into the air from human activities like industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air, washes into waterbodies and is turned into methylmercury (the most common organic form of mercury) in the water. Then mercury is built up in fish, shellfish and the animals that eat fish - including humans. Methylmercury builds up in some types of fish depending on what they eat, how long they live, and how high they are in the food chain.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has an online 'mercury calculator' to help you see if you are consuming too much mercury, and a downloadable "Fish Wallet Card." (PDF)

Rain Check Cleveland - High Mercury Levels

Rain falling in Cleveland contains mercury levels up to 31 times higher than the mercury levels EPA considers safe in the waters of the Great Lakes, jeopardizing the health of people and wildlife, according to a new report, "Rain Check Cleveland." The average levels observed were 8 times the EPA standard - the highest average level that National Wildlife Federation has observed anywhere in the Midwest. Click here to download the 2004 press release, "New Report Shows Alarming Levels of Mercury in Rain Falling on Cleveland, Ohio rain shows some of the highest levels in the Midwest."

Click here to download the complete report, "Rain Check Cleveland." (PDF)

What Can You Do to Prevent Mercury Pollution

Sources of mercury pollution include industrial boilers, waste comfisbustors, medical waste, incinerators and consumer, household (batteries, light switches, electrical devices, dental amalgam, cosmetics, toys, etc.), medical and industrial products. Replace your mercury thermometers with digital thermometers and properly dispose of thermostats, appliance switches, and liquid mercury. Click here for the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District Mercury Program information. on collection programs, mercury toxicity, a mercury fact sheet, how to clean up a small mercury spill and more.

Click here for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's mercury program and thermometer exchange program.

Click here for additional Northeast Ohio county mercury collections:
Ashtabula County
Erie County
Lake County
Lorain County

Click here to access all Northeast Ohio county recycling and litter prevention contact information.

Click here to learn more about products that contain mercury including fluorescent lamps, jewelry, paint, and other products.

Be aware of local sources of air pollution. Coal-burning power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions to the air in the US (about 41% of human-caused mercury emissions according to EPA). Save energy to reduce air pollution.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Earth Day Coalition is encouraging a switch from traditional light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs). This is an easy and cost effective change that we can all make to prevent greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. CFLs provide an opportunity to prevent mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, but energy efficient lamps do themselves contain a small amount of mercury. Even the small amount of mercury must be handled with care and disposed of properly as household hazardous waste. Click here for a UEPA fact sheet on "Mercury and Compact Fluorescent Lamps." Click here for an Energy Star fact sheet on "Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Mercury," including information on what to do when your bulb burns out and what to do when a CFL breaks.

You can now take your used CFL to any of the 1,973 Home Depot stores for recycling. Home Depot is creating the nation's most widespread recycling program for CFLs. Read more about Home Depot's announcement here.

Environmental Justice

Click here to download the “National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Fish Consumption and Environmental Justice, November 2002.” (PDF)

Click here to download the US EPA "Environmental Justice in the News, Week of August 11, 2006." "Mercury Bigger Risk for Poor, Minorities; Tend to Eat More Fish from Madison Lakes," Capital Times (Madison, WI, Aug. 9, 2006) states that subsistence anglers could be at higher risk because "they depend on fish as a free food source and many consider fishing an important social and cultural activity." Most poor minority anglers are unaware of advisories and may eat more fish meals per week.

Legislation

Click here for Ohio legislative information as well as other Great Lakes states' legislation from the Great Lakes Mercury Strategy Team.

For More Information on This Important Health Issue for Your Family

Ask for an Ohio Fish Consumption Advisory with your fishing license.

Call: Ohio Department of Health at 800-755-4769 or the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency at 614-644-2160 (216-787-3000 - toll free in the Cleveland area).

Email: fishmail@epa.state.oh.us (for more information)

Dental Amalgam update

FDA has updated its website on dental amalgam (www.fda.gov/cdrh/consumer/amalgams.html) and it now says: "Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetus.” and " Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner.”

This update is the result of a lawsuit, Moms Against Mercury et al. v. Von Eschenbach, Commissioner, et al. FDA will now finish classifying amalgam within one year of the close of the public comment period on its amalgam policy, that is, by July 28, 2009. You can read more on this issue from the group that settled the lawsuit at: www.toxicteeth.org. The American Dental Association has raised concerns over these actions via www.ada.org/public/media/releases/0806_release03.asp.