Fish Consumption Advisories in Louisiana

Fish are an excellent source of lean protein, but it's important to be aware of potential health risks due to chemicals in some fish. Here's what you need to know about fish consumption advisories in Louisiana:

Understanding the Advisories

  • Average Consumption: Advisories are based on an average consumption of four fish meals per month by Louisiana residents. One meal is approximately half a pound of fish.
  • Increased Consumption Risks: Eating more than the recommended meals from local water bodies may increase health risks due to potential chemical contaminants.

Issuance and Coordination

  • Departments Involved: Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), Department of Environmental Quality, and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries collaborate to issue advisories.
  • Species-Specific Advisories: If not specifically mentioned, limit consumption of all species in an advisory area to four meals per month.

Seeking Information

  • Contact Information: For more details or concerns about consuming fish with chemicals, contact the Office of Public Health at 1-855-229-6848.
  • Advisory Updates: Be aware that advisories may change or new ones may be added at any time. It's crucial to stay informed by checking the latest updates.

Understanding Contaminants in Fish in Louisiana

Louisiana's abundant waterways are a source of recreational fishing and sustenance for many. However, certain bodies of water may harbor fish and shellfish with chemical contamination that poses health risks if consumed excessively over time.

Causes of Contamination

  • Natural Deposition: Naturally occurring substances can accumulate in water bodies.
  • Industrial Discharges: Waste from manufacturing and other industries can introduce harmful chemicals.
  • Leaking Landfills: Chemicals may leach into water bodies from improperly contained waste sites.
  • Misuse of Pesticides: Improper application or disposal of pesticides can lead to water contamination.

Accumulation in Fish

  • Contaminant Uptake: Fish absorb contaminants through water, sediments, and their diet.
  • Vulnerable Species: Larger, older fish, and predatory species tend to have higher levels of contaminants due to bioaccumulation.

Health Evaluations and Advisories

  • Role of Public Health Office: The Office of Public Health assesses chemical levels in fish to determine health risks, focusing on vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and subsistence anglers.
  • Issuance of Advisories: When fish fillet tests reveal unacceptable levels of contaminants, a fish consumption advisory is issued to guide safe consumption practices.

Navigating Fish Consumption Advisories in Louisiana

Fish consumption advisories in Louisiana are designed to protect public health by providing guidance on the safe consumption of local fish. Here's what you need to understand:

Basis of Advisories

  • Chemical Levels: Advisories are based on the presence and concentration of chemicals in the fish fillet.
  • Conservative Approach: The advisories are set at conservative levels to ensure the safety of individuals consuming fish.

Purpose of Advisories

  • Guidance on Consumption: Advisories provide specific consumption recommendations for different fish species.
  • Continued Fishing and Consumption: The advisories do not prohibit fishing or the consumption of fish but advise being selective.

Risk and Consumption Rate

  • Single Meal Safety: Occasional consumption of fish from affected areas does not pose a significant health risk.
  • Long-Term Risk: The health risk increases with frequent and regular consumption of contaminated fish over a long period.
  • Recommended Limit: Limit consumption to four meals per month unless specified otherwise for certain fish species.

Seeking Further Information

  • Contact for Queries: If you have questions or need more information about consuming fish with chemicals, contact the Office of Public Health at 1-888-293-7020.

Health Advice for Reducing Contaminant Risks from Fish

When consuming fish in Louisiana, it's important to be aware of organic chemical and metal contaminants and take steps to reduce exposure. Here's how you can reduce the intake of these contaminants:

Organic Chemicals (HCB, HCBD, PCBs, and Dioxin)

  • Remove Organs and Skin: These parts can be high in fat where organic chemicals accumulate.
  • Trim Fat: Remove belly, side, and back fat to reduce organic contaminant intake.
  • Cooking Method: Bake or broil fish on a rack or grill to allow fat to drip off. Dispose of the drippings properly.
  • Avoid Certain Cooking Liquids: When poaching or frying, discard the broth or oil as it may contain released fats and chemicals.

Reducing Mercury and Other Metal Contamination

  • Understand Distribution: Metals like mercury and lead are distributed evenly in the fish and cannot be removed by cooking or cleaning.
  • Select Smaller, Younger Fish: Generally, they have less contamination compared to larger, older fish.

General Dietary Advice

  • Limit Predator Fish: Predator species like bass, gar, or pickerel tend to have higher levels of contaminants due to bioaccumulation.
  • Diversify Diet: Include a variety of fish, shellfish, meat, and poultry to reduce the risk associated with a single source.
  • Vary Sources: Change where you source your fish, seafood, meat, poultry, and wild game to minimize consistent exposure to specific contaminants.

Safe Fish Consumption Advice for Women and Young Children

The EPA and FDA have outlined guidelines for women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, as well as for young children, to safely enjoy the benefits of fish and shellfish while minimizing the risk of mercury exposure:

Fish to Avoid

  • High Mercury Fish: Do not consume shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish as they contain high levels of mercury.

Recommended Consumption

  • Variety of Fish: Eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. This includes commonly eaten low mercury fish like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
  • Albacore Tuna: Limit to up to 6 ounces a week due to its higher mercury content compared to light tuna.

Local Fish Consumption

  • Local Advisories: Always check local advisories for the safety of fish caught by family and friends in local waters.
  • Consumption without Advisory: If no advice is available, limit consumption of locally caught fish to up to 6 ounces per week and avoid consuming other fish that same week.

Serving Sizes for Children

  • Smaller Portions: When feeding fish or shellfish to young children, follow these recommendations but serve smaller portions appropriate for their size and age.

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