DETROIT While Michigan environmental programs are slowly reducing toxins in lakes and rivers, human consumption of contaminated fish continues. A Wayne State University researcher believes the issue needs more attention in order to reduce human health risks.
Donna Kashian, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), said the problem is especially significant in distressed urban environments, where efforts to change behaviors often confront deep-seated cultural preferences and people's own interpretation of risk.
To meet those challenges, she and fellow WSU researchers Andrea Sankar, professor of anthropology, CLAS, and Mark Luborsky, director of aging and health disparities research at the Institute of Gerontology and professor of anthropology and gerontology, have undertaken what they call "Improving Community Awareness for Detroit River Fish Consumption Advisories." This health intervention program is supported by a $99,600 grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. The program has funded the hiring of River Walkers, partners from the local community who explain to anglers and others the importance of choosing less-contaminated fish.
Detroit River fish have been shown to be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and mercury, but Kashian said a high percentage of the first two chemicals can be removed by cutting off the fat before eating the fish. Mercury is stored in the meat, she said, and cannot be removed from the filet.
Many local anglers learned to fish from their parents, relatives and friends, Kashian said, and while some are at least partially aware of that information, it still is news to others. Compounding the issue is the fact that many river anglers often share their catches with neighbors, friends or relatives.
The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has used River Walker intervention successfu
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Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research