|WASHINGTON - Americans were cautioned about eating fish from more than one-third of U.S. lakes and nearly one-fourth of its rivers last year due to pollution from mercury and other chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday.|
Nationwide, about 102,000 lakes and about 846,000 river miles were under fishing advisories in 2003, the EPA said in its annual report.
Fishing advisories are issued by states if high concentrations of mercury, dioxin, DDT or three dozen other chemicals harmful to humans are found in local fish. The advisories range from an outright ban on all fishing to restrictions on certain species or sizes of fish.
Most of the new fishing advisories issued last year were due to mercury pollution from coal-fired utilities, the EPA said. Mercury emissions in the air can pollute nearby streams and lakes, contaminating local fish.
The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration recently advised pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid some types of fish that may contain higher levels of mercury which is harmful to developing nervous systems.
In 2003, 48 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa issued 3,094 fish advisories, 280 more than the previous year, the EPA said. \"With these additions, 35 percent of the total lake acres and 24 percent of the river miles in the nation are now under advisory,\" it said.
The nation\'s 1,100 coal-burning utility plants emit about 48 tons of mercury annually, the largest unregulated U.S. source of the toxic substance.
The Bush administration proposed earlier this year to require utilities to cut mercury emissions by 70 percent by 2018, a deadline that Democrats say is too generous to the industry and too risky for public health.
The number of river miles under fishing advisories was up by 9 percent in 2003, with lake acreage up 2 percent, the EPA said.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE