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Certain chemicals widespread in sport fish along California's urban coastline: survey

05-30-2011 10:51 BJT

LOS ANGELES, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Nineteen percent of coastline in the U.S. State of California sampled by the state water board harbored fish with mercury in such high concentrations that they shouldn't be eaten by young women and children, a newly released survey has found.

Fourteen percent of locations had similarly elevated levels of PCBs, according to the survey published by The Los Angeles Times on Sunday.

The most elevated concentrations of mercury and PCBs were found in San Francisco Bay and San Diego Bay, said the survey funded by the state water board.

The findings, part of a two-year inquiry that is the largest statewide survey of contaminants in sport fish along the California coast, examined more than 2,000 fish from three dozen species gathered in 2009 from waters near Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, the paper said.

The survey highlights the health problem of lingering mercury, a poisonous metal that is found in fish globally, and of PCBs, toxic chemicals the United States banned in the 1970s, the report said.

Both substances continue to pose a risk to people who eat fish caught along the California coast because they can lead to nervous system damage and developmental problems in children and can cause cancer, liver damage and reproductive harm, the report quoted researchers as saying.

"Unfortunately, we're not seeing many areas that are totally clean," said Jay Davis, a senior scientist for the San Francisco Estuary Institute and lead author of the study. But a catalog of where and in what fish the substances abound should help anglers make better choices, Davis said. "With good information, people can reduce their exposure significantly."

Sharks had some of the highest levels of mercury because of their unusual tendency to accumulate contaminants in their flesh, while chub mackerel had the lowest levels of contamination, according to the survey.

The survey results were used in part to help craft new fish consumption guidelines issued earlier this week for anglers in San Francisco Bay, the first update there by state health officials in 17 years. The advisory identifies shiner perch and other surf perches as unsafe to eat in any quantity and warns young women and children not to eat white sturgeon, striped bass and sharks caught in the bay, The Times said.

The buildup of metals and other chemicals in fish is such a problem along the Southern California coast that health officials two years ago expanded the number of fish species on the "do not eat" list from one to five because of high levels of PCBs, mercury and the banned pesticide DDT, the report noted.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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