Medical University of South Carolina researchers are calling for health advisories to warn anglers about eating fish caught in Charleston-area waters that may be contaminated with a chemical linked to cancer.
The school announced a new study found pollutants in certain species of fish in the Charleston Harbor, the Cooper River and the Ashley River. The most common pollutant found were polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a product commonly used as industrial coolant until it was banned in the 1970s after scientists linked high levels of exposure to cancer.
“Fish is still really good for you,” Department of Public Health Services chair John Vena said. “But the fact is, if you have high consumption from contaminated areas, you’re going to increase the burden you get from these environmental chemicals.”
Researchers behind the study tested 39 whole fish and 37 fish fillets, focusing on Atlantic croaker, southern flounder, striped mullet, red drum, spot fish and spotted seatrout. The study said every single fillet contained PCB levels above what the Environmental Protection Agency considers the “human health value.”
The study found that there were higher contamination levels in fish from the Cooper and Ashley rivers than in Charleston harbor. Researchers also noted higher contaminant levels in mullet and spot fish.
MUSC is asking the state to issue public advisories warning anglers to limit the amount of fish they consume from the waters around Charleston.
“The fact is, a lot of studies are showing even low levels of exposures, especially cumulative exposures, can have adverse outcomes,” MUSC public health researcher Patricia Fair said. “We want to limit these exposures.”
MUSC Map Showing Where Sampled Fish Were Caught