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Don't Eat Certain Fish From Wenatchee River

Armen Hareyan's picture

State health officials are advising against eating any mountain whitefish caught in the Wenatchee River between Leavenworth and the Columbia River.

The state Department of Health advisory is due to high levels of contaminants found in the fish.

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This advisory is based on sampling conducted by the state Department of Ecology. The primary pollutant is polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs. These contaminants were banned nationwide in the 1970s, yet are still commonly found in fish across the country. They pose unacceptable risks to the environment and potential harm to human health. PCBs can have numerous health effects, depending on dose; neurological effects are the biggest concern. PCBs have been linked to learning difficulties in children who were exposed prior to birth. PCB exposure to the general population may harm the immune system.

Department of Health toxicologists examined data from a new Ecology report entitled, "Contaminants in Fish Tissue from Freshwater Environments 2004-2005". The report showed that samples of mountain whitefish taken from this 27-mile stretch of the Wenatchee River had high levels of PCBs.

"It's important that people include fish in their diet because fish are an excellent low-fat food and a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals," said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. "We don't want to scare people away from eating all fish; we want to give them information that will help them choose wisely when deciding what fish to put on the table. This is especially true for pregnant women, women who might one day become pregnant, and young children."

The Wenatchee River fish advisory and other general fish consumption recommendations are available online. There's also a statewide fish consumption advisory for mercury in largemouth and smallmouth bass in effect for all waters in the state, including the Wenatchee River. Mercury may adversely affect a child's brain, making it more difficult to learn.