in the New York-New Jersey area document that, relative to white anglers, minority anglers are more likely to consume unsafe fish andless likely to be informed about health advisories and health hazards related to local fish (Burger et al., 1999). Middle-class anglers predominantly fish for sport rather than subsistence. Among low-income minority anglers, both for income reasons and as a matter of cultural tradition, fishing is likely to represent not only recreation but also an important source of food (Burger, 1998). Therefore, the health risk may be even higher in low-income minority communities in the Hudson River watershed, particularly for women of childbearing age who eat fish that are caught in local waters. An informal survey of twenty New York City anglers conducted along shores of the East and Harlem Rivers found that almost all of them ate their catch; all gave fish to others at least sometimes; and they reported that locally caught fish are commonly sold, with some anglers believing this is not illegal (P. J. Landrigan, unpublished data).
Major inconsistencies exist between the anglers' knowledge of the hazards of pollutants in fish and their behavior. In surveys conducted in the highly contaminated Arthur Kill estuary and New Jersey shore area, 60 percent of the fishermen and crabbers interviewed reported having heard warnings about consuming fish from these waters (Burger etal., 1999; Pflugh etal., 1999). Nevertheless, 70-76 percent reported that they eat their catch. These anglers rationalized the inconsistency with a number of inaccurate but strongly-held beliefs - for example, locally caught fish are good for you because they are "fresher;" you can make fish completely safe by cooking it; certain fishing locations have escaped pollution; crabs can "filter out" hazardous chemicals; if you eat the fish and don't get sick immediately, the fish was safe. Many distrusted the advisories, doubting the motives behind government warnings. A 1993 angler survey by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., found similar beliefs, noting that "the idea of soaking the fish (in beer, water, lemon juice, vinegar, etc.) to detoxify it was reported with disturbing frequency," and is indicative of fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of chemical contaminants found in fish (Barclay, 1993).
health and policy implications of human exposures to persistent pollutants Health advisories. The federal government sets standards that are enforced through the Food and Drug Administration for chemicals in food that is sold commercially, including fish (USFDA, 2000), but such rules do not apply to the private consumption of sportfish. States, tribal organizations, and the USEPA issue fish consumption advisories in the United States and territories. (The USEPA fish consumption advisory can be downloaded in several languages from http://www.epa.gov/ost/fish). These advisories include recommendations to limit or avoid eating non-commercial fish and wildlife from certain bodies of water. In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) routinely monitors contaminant levels in fish and game, and the Department of Health (DOH) issues advisories when sportfish have contaminant levels greater than federal standards. Fish from more than seventy bodies of water in New York State have contaminant levels that are greater than federal standards. For these waters, DOH recommends either limiting or not eating specific species of fish (NYSDOH, 2000). Similar advisories are issued for relevant waterways in New Jersey (NJDEP and NJDOH, 1995).
The New York State DOH advisory for sportfish states that no more than one meal (one-half pound) per week of fish should be taken from the state's fresh waters and some marine waters at the mouth of the Hudson River. These include the waters of the Hudson River, Upper Bay of New York Harbor (north of Verrazano Narrows Bridge), Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, Harlem River and the East River to the Throgs Neck Bridge. This general advisory is designed to protect against eating large amounts of fish that have not been tested or that may contain unidentified contaminants. Specific advice is also given for infants, children under the age of fifteen, and women of childbearing age. DOH recommends that these groups not eat any fish from the specific bodies of water listed in the advisory.
Management of the watershed. Data on human exposures to persistent pollutants and on the health impacts of these exposures are extremely important for decision making about management of the Hudson River estuary.
Whether to reopen the Hudson River commercial striped bass fishery is one major question that is receiving urgent consideration from federal and state agencies now that levels of PCBs in these prized and beautiful game fish have declined appreciably. However, a major health-based impediment to reopening the fishery is that the current standard for PCBs of 2 ppm in fish is based on a risk assessment that centers on the prevention of cancer in adults. The standard was established before the developmental neurotoxicity of PCBs was recognized. Consequently, it pays no consideration to the fact that PCBs are now known to be capable of causing adverse effects on fetal development at levels of exposure well below 2 ppm. It may therefore be unwise to reopen the Hudson River striped bass fishery for many years.
Another major policy issue confronting EPA and state agencies in New York is the dredging of sediments in the upper Hudson River to remove PCBs and other toxins. Recent geochemical data suggest that PCBs are much more persistent in the environment than some had predicted and that natural degradation is occurring at a very slow rate (Bopp et al., 1998) These data, in combination with body burden data from the Hudson River Anglers Study and information on the developmental toxicity of PCBs supplied, should inform decisions related to dredging.
Another difficult policy issue currently confronting EPA and the New York State DEC is the question of how best to manage heavy metal contamination in the upper Hudson River below Glens Falls, New York. Lead, cadmium, and copper from a pigment factory in Glens Falls have contaminated the Hudson for more than 80 kilometers downstream. All of these metals are potent human toxins.
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