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Families enjoying North Carolina’s Free Fishing Day at Triangle-area lakes or rivers this Fourth of July will have new resources to help them understand health advisories about eating the fish they catch, thanks to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Over the holiday weekend, the Superfund Research Program in Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, along with the UNC Institute for the Environment’s Environmental Resource Program, will release “Eat Fish, Choose Wisely.” The new Web site and brochure will help anglers learn about harmful chemicals that may be present in fish caught in local waterways and how they can reduce their exposure.

Mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals found in some Triangle-area lakes and streams, can accumulate in fish that live long lives and eat other fish, especially largemouth bass, catfish and carp, making them unsafe to eat. High levels of PCBs have been found in fish in Lake Crabtree County Park and its tributaries, which are near the Ward Transformer Superfund site.

“The idea for the guide came about when two of our long-time community partners—Neuse River Keeper Matthew Starr and Lake Crabtree County Park Manager Drew Cade—expressed concerns that fishermen, especially Spanish-speaking anglers, were eating fish caught from local waterways that were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls from a nearby Superfund site,” explained Kathleen Gray, research translation core leader with the UNC Superfund Research Program and director of the Institute for the Environment’s Environmental Resource Program.

UNC-Chapel Hill staff conducted interviews with local fishermen to learn about the kinds of information that would help them better understand health advisories and how they wanted to receive it. The resources were created with a map as a central focus, after determining that fishermen wanted information not only about the sources of contaminants, but also other places they could fish.

The guide features information on all fish advisories for the Triangle-area, including specific recommendations for more vulnerable populations, such as children and women of childbearing age. It also includes tips for families to enjoy the benefits of eating fish while reducing their exposure to chemicals. For example, cooks should prepare the skinless filet of fish, which is the least-contaminated part, and children should eat smaller portions than adults.

“Fishing is a great recreational activity, and fish are an important part of a healthy diet,” said Sound Rivers’ Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr. “We hope this guide will help community members become more aware of fish consumption advisories and how to reduce their risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals.”

To find out more, check out the Eat Fish, Choose Wisely Web site. The brochure is available for download in English and Spanish.

UNC Superfund Research Program/UNC Institute for the Environment contact: Kathleen Gray, (919) 962-9799, kgray@unc.edu

UNC Institute for the Environment contact: Emily Williams, (919) 962-0965, emilywilliams@unc.edu

Communications and Public Affairs contact: MC VanGraafeiland, (919) 962-7090, mc.vangraafeiland@unc.edu

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