Toxic Waterways: Be Careful Where You Fish

Fishing can be healthy way to get Vitamin D and Omega 3’s if you watch out for toxic waterways!

Summer winds down but fishing season keeps going no matter where you are in the country. The fish are packing on a little extra weight as winter gets closer and they are a great source of healthy omega-3’s. So, it’s a great time to get out side get some Vitamin D and make some fishing memories. Be careful where you fish and what you fish for to make sure you aren’t adding extra toxins to your diet. 42% of lakes and 38% river miles in the United States are under an advisory which means they are contaminated and have restrictions on what you should eat and how much. (1) Let’s be honest. Every day of fishing is a good day but getting to eat your fish makes it a really good day. If you want to enjoy that catch, be careful where you fish. Avoid toxic waterways.

Pathway To Wellness headquarters is located in Green Bay, WI where fishing season goes year-round even if it means cutting a hole in the ice. We know the contamination of our waterways too well. Before PCBs were banned in the 1970’s they were used by paper companies in our area for carbonless copy paper. The PCBs were banned, and use was discontinued but the toxin persists in our river contaminating the fishing. This story is not unique to our area as manufacturing has led to toxic waterways across the United States.

With all the warnings about farmed fish and imported fish it would seem like catching your own would be a great option. It is, but be careful where you fish because they may have these toxins.

Common Contaminants in Toxic Waterways

Mercury- Mercury is natural in the environment but manufacturing and mining have resulted in higher mercury levels in some waterways. This heavy metal can build up in our bodies and have toxic impacts. Mercury is dangerous to development and neurology in small children and babies. That means pregnant moms should avoid it too. It has also been linked to heart conditions in adults.

PCBs – Along with mercury, PCBS are one of the most common reasons for fish advisories. PCBs are especially harmful to developing babies. They have been linked to cancer and can cause damage to circulatory, nervous, immune and digestive systems.

Dioxins – According to the EPA, “Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones.” 90% of the populations exposure will come from food including fish and shellfish. Dioxins have contaminated water supplies from waste incineration and chemical manufacturing.

DDT – DDT is a pesticide that was used in agriculture until it was banned in 1972. It is also a persistent chemical and is still found in the sediments of some of our waterways. This chemical has been linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility and thyroid problems.

Reduce Your Risk

  • Eat younger smaller fish – These contaminants bioaccumulate making them more pervasive in fish that are higher on the food chain. Older fish have had more time to ingest these contaminants.
  • Avoid bottom feeders – Chemicals like PCBs and DDT settle in the sediment where bottom feeders are eating.
  • Don’t eat fish from waters with higher contaminants – Check with your state’s DNR to find out what waterways in your state are under advisory. Check back often as they will do regular testing. You can also find general fish-eating guidelines in the EPA Website and info on how to find advisories in your area.

Don’t Skip Fishing

Go out to build fishing memories and your stores of Vitamin D. Just be sure there are no fishing advisories for your favorite fishing hole. Fishing is healthy for you and the fish you catch can also help you get some good Omega-3’s which are great for your heart, brain, and bones while excellent at reducing inflammation.

Great options that have high omega- 3’s and low toxins are rainbow trout, catfish, bass and perch but you have to check the advisories in your area! The best tasting fish are the ones you catch yourself. Even if you don’t catch anything though, it’s still a good day of fishing.

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn