Fish provide excellent recreation and table fare for many Arkansans, but fish from some areas may contain higher-than-normal levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause health problems. Mercury is an element in the Earth’s crust and is found in many rocks, including coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for more than 40 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions. As the pollution settles from the air into the water, it is transformed to methylmercury. Methylmercury rapidly accumulates up the food chain to levels that can cause serious health concerns for people and wildlife that frequently eat fish.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA issued a joint consumer advisory about mercury in fish and shellfish. The purpose of the advisory is to inform women who might become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the parents of young children about health benefits from eating fish, while minimizing mercury exposure. The FDA and the EPA advise women who might become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid eating certain fish from some water (see map and documents below). The general public also should limit consumption of fish from these areas.
For more details about mercury in Arkansas fish, contact the Arkansas Department of Health, 501-
661-2893, or visit one of the links in the left column of this page.