clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

PCB levels in fish net Utah warning

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 believed capable of causing cancer. PCBs were once in common use as insulation in equipment such as electrical transformers. Use of the chemicals was banned in the late 1970s, but they persist in the environment.

The Utah departments of Natural Resources and Health and Environmental Quality, as well as 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 from Utah Lake be limited to a single eight-ounce serving of fillets per month for adults. The advisory said children, pregnant women and women who could become pregnant should not consume any of that fish.

The advisory issued Tuesday recommends that adults limit their consumption of the fish to no more than a single serving of four ounces of fillets per month. The same "do not consume" advice is in effect for pregnant women, women who may become pregnant and children.

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

Black bullhead, white bass and walleye were tested and found safe for human consumption. 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. Removing skin and fat from fish fillets can significantly reduce exposure to PCBs from fish, the health advisory said.

"Any health risks associated with eating carp and channel catfish from Utah Lake are based on long-term consumption and are not tied to eating fish occasionally," according to the health advisory. "There are no health risks associated with PCBs from other uses of the lake, such as swimming, boating and water skiing."

An investigation is planned to try to identify sources of the PCBs in the lake. Meanwhile, warning signs are to be posted at access points to Utah Lake.