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Health Advisory: Mercury in Fish

 

Health Advisories in Brewster Ponds

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has reviewed fish toxics data generated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for Sheep Pond and Baker Pond. 
MDPH has issued fish consumption advisories due to fish contaminated with mercury.

Sheep Pond

Mercury has been detected in fish caught from Sheep Pond.

Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under 12 years of age should not eat any fish from this water body.

The general public should limit consumption of all fish from this water body to two meals per month.

Baker Pond

Mercury has been detected in fish caught from Baker Pond. The mercury level in yellow perch was below the Food and Drug Administration Action Level
for mercury of 1.0 mg/kg but within a level that may pose health concerns.

Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under 12 years of age should not eat yellow perch from this water body.

The general public should limit consumption of yellow perch from this water body to two meals per month.

Mercury Contamination

Mercury may accumulate in individuals who frequently eat fish contaminated with mercury, thus leading to an increased risk of adverse health effects.
Fetuses, nursing infants, and young children are particularly sensitive to the developmental and health problems associated with mercury exposure

MDPH Health Advisories for Freshwater Fish (statewide)

The Massachusetts Department of Health (MDPH) has posted several advisories about consumption of fish contaminated with mercury. 
MDH has expanded its previously issued statewide fish consumption advisory which cautioned pregnant women to
avoid eating fish from all freshwater bodies due to concerns about mercury contamination, to now include
women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under 12 years of age. 
This same group should limit their consumption of fish not covered by existing advisories to no more than
12 ounces (about 2 meals) of cooked or uncooked fish per week. 
This includes canned tuna, which should be limited to two cans per week.  Very small children, including toddlers, should eat less.

The MDPH statewide freshwater fish advisory does not apply to fish stocked in freshwater bodies by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

MDPH and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife sample fish from certain ponds in Brewster. 

MDH Health Advisories for Marine Fish (statewide)

MDPH is advising pregnant women, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children
under 12 years of age to refrain from eating the following marine fish; shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna steak and tilefish.

MDPH recommends that consumers choose a variety of fish and shellfish and obtain them from a variety of sources.
Some kinds of fish are known to have lower levels of mercury and can safely be eaten in large amounts.
These include cod, pollock, haddock, and flounder.

MDPH also continues to recommend the following:

  • Recreational fishing and shellfishing should occur only in those areas permitted by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
  • Purchase fish and shellfish from reputable dealers.
  • Remove skin, any fatty material and dark meat from fish before cooking.
  • Broil fish instead of frying to allow as much of the fat as possible to be drained away.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly.

Other advisories that MDPH has previously issued and are still in effect include:

  1. Due to concerns about chemical contamination, primarily from polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs)
    and other contaminants, no individual should consume lobster tomalley from any source.
    Lobster tomalley is the soft green substance found in the tail and body section of the lobster.
  2. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and those who are considering becoming pregnant should not eat bluefish
    due to concerns about PCB contamination in this species.

Despite the fish consumption advisories, MDPH continues to recognize the substantial benefits of fish consumption by the general population.
Fish are one of the best sources of natural fatty acids that are helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Fish are also low in saturated fat and high in protein. A varied diet, including fish in lieu of high fat food, will lead to improved nutrition and better health.

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MDPH continues to work with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to collect and review data concerning chemical concentrations in fish from specific freshwater bodies
throughout the Commonwealth. If the data so indicate, MDPH will issue a water body specific fish consumption advisory and work with
local health departments to post the advisories at the water body. At this time, MDPH has 111 water body specific fish consumption advisories.

MDH lists their health advisories on their web page:

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eohhs2subtopic&L=7&L0=Home&L1=Consumer&L2=Community+Health+and+Safety&L3=Environmental+Health&L4=Environmental+Exposure+Topics&L5=Fish+and+Wildlife&L6=Fish+Consumption+Advisories&sid=Eeohhs2

Always consult the MDPH directly for the latest updates on fish advisories and other health issues.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has information on mercury in fish here:  http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fishadvice/advice.html