A Letter from the Mercury Frontline

Nearly all of our exposure to mercury occurs through eating fish and shellfish. Mercury pollution spewing from power plants settles in our lakes and rivers where microscopic organisms convert the inorganic mercury into methylmercury. This form of mercury accumulates up the food chain in fish and then into people when we eat fish.

The impact of this chain of events is clear. If you fish a lot and eat your catch, you are on the frontline of mercury exposure. Mercury pollution thus turns fishing – one of our great recreational pastimes – into something with potentially dangerous consequences. Exposure to mercury is linked to negative neurological impacts (such as decreased cognitive thinking, memory, attention and fine motor skills) and increased risk of heart disease.

Mercury pollution harms fish, and the wildlife that depend on them — from walleye and largemouth bass to the common loon to the river otter. Take action to protect from toxic mercury pollution.

Mercury Cycle
courtesy edf.org

This is why imposing strict limits on the mercury, arsenic, and other toxic air pollutants from the nation’s coal-fired power plants is of critical importance sportsmen and sportswomen across the country. And today, NWF released a letter from the mercury frontline.

Hunters and Anglers Rally for Action

Over 320 hunting and angling groups came together to tell Congress that it needs to support strong Clean Air Act rules like the new limits on mercury and toxic air pollution that would reduce mercury pollution from power plants by 91%, prevent 17,000 premature deaths per year, and start reducing toxic pollution in our nation’s lakes, streams, and rivers.

Congress should already be well aware that anglers stand in the mercury exposure bull’s eye. In 1997, as directed by Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered its Mercury Study Report. Nearly fifteen years ago, the report highlighted the increased risks of mercury exposure among those who fish stating:

  • Exposures among specific subpopulations including anglers . . . indicate that their average exposures to methylmercury may be more than two-times greater than those experience by the average population.

The situation is not any better now. In an Analysis that accompanied the proposed new reductions in mercury pollution the EPA found:

  • Several subpopulations with particularly high potential risks of mercury exposure due to relatively high rates of freshwater fish consumption. The particular groups on the front line of exposure include low-income African-American recreational/subsistence fishers in the Southeast region, low-income white recreational/subsistence fishers in the Southeast region, low-income female recreational/subsistence fishers, and Hispanic subsistence fishers.

Let’s look even deeper. A 2009 Study studying mercury exposure in recreational fishermen in Louisiana found:

  • Louisiana anglers who participated in the study had hair concentrations of mercury that were 4 times the median of the only available nationally representative sample of women of childbearing age, related to even consumption of fish with low to moderate mercury concentrations.

EPA Air Toxics Rules Badly Needed

So what does all this mean? It means that fishermen are far more exposed than even the general population to mercury and more likely to suffer from the health impacts associated with mercury exposure. And while some fish contain more methylmercury than others (big fish that eat smaller fish tend to contain more methylmercury), those who fish and eat even the smaller fish need to see strict new mercury and air toxic rules now.

For Information Visit: www.nwf.org/mercury