An eating advisory has been issued by the state for a popular sport fish found in the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a consumption warning for channel catfish longer than 20 inches. Samples of the fish showed unacceptable levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, often called PCBs.
DEP recommends no more than one meal per month of channel catfish that are 20 inches or longer.
The advisory is for channel catfish caught in the river from the Maryland line upriver to Sunbury.
This is the second advisory on sport fish found in Lancaster County.
Mercury levels found in rock bass, also known as redeye bass, resulted in a consumption advisory that has been in effect since the early 1990s.
Affected are rock bass caught in the Conestoga River from the Slackwater area near Millersville to where the river empties into the Susquehanna.
The advisory for rock bass from that area is no more than two meals per month.
DEP says that frequent consumption of channel catfish or rock bass from the affected areas could “potentially be a health concern to pregnant and breast-feeding women, women of childbearing age, children and individuals whose diet consists of a high percentage of fish.”
It could take months or years of regularly eating contaminated fish for contaminants such as PCBs and mercury to build up in a human body to the point it becomes a health concern.
The dangers of longterm consumption can be birth defects or cancer. Mothers who eat highly contaminated fish for many years could have babies who are slower to develop and learn.
The source of the PCBs found in the Susquehanna’s channel catfish are not known.
They were used widely as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment for many years.
Products that typcially used PCBs are old fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical appliances containing PCB capacitors, old microscope oil and hydraulic fluids.
During the time that PCBs were manufactured, there were often no effective controls on disposal. Because they do not break down easily, PCBs are now widely distributed in the environment.
Generally their concentrations in the environment are quite low, DEP notes. However, the chemical properties of PCBs cause them to be concentrated up the food chain.
The manufacture of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977.
Generally, fish are a very healthy food to eat. They are low in fat and high in protein. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are known to aid cardiovascular health and enhance brain development in children.