Daily News Archive
From February 21, 2002

Contaminated Fish Put Northwest Tribes at Risk

A new study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finds that a variety of fish from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are contaminated with high levels of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. This has serious implications for people that depend on Northwest fish for sustenance.

The average American eats fish once a month and Northwest Native Americans 48 times a month. EPA estimates a 70-year-old tribal member eating a regular diet of fish has a risk of cancer 50 times higher than the average U.S. citizen.

EPA suggested that the local tribes reduce their fish consumption, a suggestion that angered many affected by the problem. "Eliminating fish or even reducing fish consumption is not acceptable. The federal government has an obligation to produce abundant fish runs and healthy fish," said Charles Hudson, Intertribal Fish Commission.

EPA's study found toxic levels of 92 different chemicals in Northwest fish - higher levels of a form of DDT and PCBs in sturgeon and whitefish, zinc in Coho salmon, plus low levels of more toxic dioxins, arsenic and mercury in sturgeon smelt and large scale sucker.

"Fish are accumulating chemicals. That isn't unique to fish, people need to realize that they're in the food chain. They're in all the foods we eat," EPA's Pat Cirone told Seattle's King 5 News, the channel that first reported the study.

The impacts of pesticides on water quality and endangered salmon will be a major focus of the 20th National Pesticide Forum, April 26-28, in Seattle, WA. For more information, contact Beyond Pesticides.