Mercury warnings are serious
I read this weekend's article about all the mercury showing up in resident fish in the Rogue River, particularly the pikeminnow. That article also mentioned a long-standing public-health advisory about eating all the fish except trout caught in Emigrant Lake. Can you tell me more about that advisory? I fish there occasionally and have eaten a few crappie caught there over the years, but now I'm not so sure I will anymore.
— M.M., by email
Well, M, the mercury in warm-water resident fish sampled from Emigrant Lake shows some of the higher levels of fish tested in Oregon and it is one of five water bodies in the state officially listed as contaminated with "very high levels" of mercury.
That means the public-health advisory recommends that women of child-bearing age, children under age 6 and people with kidney or liver damage should avoid eating anything from Emigrant Lake except the stocked trout, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Healthy adults should eat no more than one 8-ounce serving of Emigrant's warm-water fish every two weeks, according to the advisory.
The lake's fish were last tested in 2006. No one knows the source of the mercury in Emigrant Lake fish, but state health officials believe it is naturally occurring in runoff and erosion into the reservoir east of Ashland.
The findings by the State Department of Environmental Quality that the Rogue and several other Oregon rivers have potentially unhealthful levels of mercury also are expected to lead to public-health advisories limiting the amounts of resident fish people eat from those waters. But the limits won't include the Rogue's famed salmon and steelhead, which spend a relatively short period of time in the rivers and don't accumulate mercury in their bodies like other fish do, toxicologists say.
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