June 26, 2009

More mercury?

The Post and Courier
Mercury warnings affect 28 waterways
Tony Bartelme
June 24, 2009

State health officials are warning people not to eat a single bite of certain kinds of fish in 28 South Carolina waterways because of mercury and other kinds of contamination, a new roster shows.

Ten Lowcountry rivers and creeks are on this list, including the Edisto, Black and Ashley rivers. The warnings are similar to those issued in past years.

In the Edisto, people should avoid eating any bowfin, catfish, largemouth bass and chain pickerel, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In the Ashley, DHEC warns people should not eat any bowfin. Largemouth bass should be off-limits on the Black River.

Many of these fish are bottom-feeders and tend to absorb more mercury and other contaminants than other species. Pregnant women are particularly at risk when they eat fish with high concentrations of mercury.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause birth defects, heart damage and other health problems. Major sources of mercury pollution include coal-fired power plants, cement kilns and incinerators.

DHEC officials measure mercury contamination in thousands of fish a year across the state to compile their fish consumption advisories.

"This information will help our citizens determine whether to keep and eat the fish they catch in South Carolina waters or release them back into the water," said David Wilson, chief of DHEC's Bureau of Water.

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