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(117) Communicating Risks of Persistant Bioaccumulating Toxics in Foods.
Petersen, Dan*,1, 1 USEPA, Cincinnati, OH, USA
ABSTRACT- The primary route of exposure to many persistant bioaccumulating toxins (PBT) such as methyl mercury, PCBs or Dioxins is though foods. Many people, but particularly subsistence fishermen, pregnant women and children, are at high risk for methyl mercury toxicity because of their consumption of contaminated fish. Often, the health risks of PBT are underestimated because of their amplification in the food chain resulting in toxicity even though ambient levels of these PBT in lakes and streams are within acceptable limits. Two concerns have developed from this situation; most of the affected groups have not been identified,and a means of effectively communicating the possible risk to the affected groups does not readily exist. We are working to address these concerns by increasingly defining regions and specific lakes and streams that have high levels of consumption of native fish, and where high mercury or other PBT concentrations in water can occur. We are also identifying populations of subsistence fishermen or other high-risk groups who consume large quantities of fish from these waters, and designing specific tools for these groups. The final product will be a user-friendly risk communication tool (the Fish Quality Index), which is a color-coded pictogram for various fish species (for example; green ones are safe to eat, even at subsistence consumption levels, yellow fish are safe once a month while red ones are safe only if eaten less than once a year). This map-based tool transcends language and literacy boundaries and should inform anglers of the relative health risks according to the species of fish that they regularly consume in an easy to understand format. It has the benefit of steering people toward safer lakes and streams and safer species of fish. In most lakes we have examined, there are safe species of fish and unsafe species of fish in the same lake, depending mostly on the trophic level of the fishes food supply. A pilot of the fish quality index has been developed. It will eventually be available on the internet, and on CD-ROM, but the individual maps can be printed in wallet-size or larger formats. We have also begun adding superfund impacted river systems and are expanding the coverage to more areas of the United States. A demonstration of the software will be featured at the presentation.
Key words: Mercury, Bioaccumulation, Risk Communication
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