Tainted fish found in Neuse River

RALEIGH Officials first warned about contaminated fish at Crabtree two years ago. Now health officials say that contamination has spread to the Neuse River.

Officials are saying that people should eat no more than one meal a month of carp or catfish from parts of the Neuse River, Walnut Creek and Rocky Branch, and no more than one meal a week of all other fish caught in Walnut Creek and Rocky Branch.

The advisories cover the Neuse River from just below Crabtree Creek to Auburn-Knightdale Road, as well as Walnut Creek and Rocky Branch just upstream of the Neuse.

Laboratory tests on fish from those waterways show high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

PCBs are pollutants that can cause health problems in people who eat the fish often. Eating fish contaminated with PCBs may increase people's risk of developing cancer, infections and skin problems. Pregnant or nursing women who regularly eat those fish have an increased risk of having children with learning deficiencies. These advisories are an extension of advisories previously issued for fish with high levels of PCBs in this area, beginning in 2003.

Those advisories warned people to not eat any fish from Brier Creek, Little Brier Creek and its tributaries and Brier Creek Reservoir. They also warned people to not eat any carp or catfish from Lake Crabtree and to limit consumption of other fish from that lake to one meal per month; and to limit consumption of carp, catfish and largemouth bass from Crabtree Creek to one meal per month. Those advisories are still in effect.

PCBs were once widely used as coolants and lubricants in electrical transformers. Although PCBs have not been manufactured or used in the United States since 1977, they can still be found in many old transformers and sometimes in sites where transformers were manufacture or stored.

In a separate release, the state's public health officials have found that two more types of freshwater fish in the southeastern part of the state have elevated levels of mercury.

They are yellow perch caught south and east of Interstate highway 85, and black crappie caught south and east of I-95. Officials are urging pregnant women and children to avoid eating those fish altogether, and urging others to limit their consumption to no more than one meal a week.

The two species join a growing list of freshwater and saltwater fish that are high in mercury. The state's high-mercury list now includes the following freshwater fish: blackfish (bowfin), wild catfish, jack fish (chain pickerel), warmouth and yellow perch south and east of I-85 and largemouth bass across the state, as well as black crappie south and east of I-95.

In people, mercury mostly affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, especially in unborn babies and young children. Prenatal mercury exposure can affect the way children think, learn and problem-solve later in life. Adverse health effects can also occur in adults at much higher doses.

Click here for more information about related issues from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services' Fish Consumption Advisories website.

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