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High levels of PCBs found in 2 Utah Lake fish

High levels of PCBs have prompted Utah officials to advise strict limitations on consuming carp and channel catfish caught in Utah Lake. Polychlorinated biphenyls are toxic and also are believed capable of causing cancer,

PCBs were in common use once as insulation in equipment like electrical transformers. They were banned in the late 1970s but persist in the environment.

The Utah departments of Natural Resources, Health and Environmental Quality, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sampled fish in Utah Lake to check for contamination. Their findings prompted them to issue a fish consumption advisory for channel catfish and to toughen a previous advisory issued about carp last year.

In May 2006, officials recommended that consumption of carp fillets from Utah Lake be limited to a single eight-ounce serving per month for adults, with children, pregnant women and women who could become pregnant not consuming any. With the new advisory, the amount adults may consume is halved to a four-ounce fillet per month, while the same "do not consume" advice is in effect for pregnant women, women who may become pregnant and children.

For channel catfish, not previously restricted, the Utah Department of Health says adults should not eat more than a single four-ounce meal per month, and children, pregnant women and women who could become pregnant should not eat any.

Black bullhead, white bass and walleye fillet were tested and found safe. But offal — all tissue except fillets — of all species tested from Utah Lake "should not be consumed due to high levels of PCBs," the officials warn.

Eating fillets of the lake's channel catfish and carp over a long period could result in taking in more PCBs than recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Any health risk associated with eating carp and channel catfish from Utah Lake are based on long-term consumption and are not tied to eating fish occasionally," says the announcement, released today.

"There are no health risks associated with PCBs from other uses of the lake, such as swimming, boating and water skiing."

Removing skin and fat from fish fillets can significantly reduce exposure to PCBs from fish, it adds.

An investigation is planned to identify sources of PCBs, "if possible," says the release. Meanwhile, warning signs are to be posted at access points to Utah Lake.