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Great Lakes Article:

Keep a close watch on those fish
By Bob Maciulis
The Star (IL)
Published February 24th, 2005


A new booklet from Illinois Sea Grant asserts that, while fish caught from area lakes and rivers are chock full of nutrients, they are often contaminated with pollutants that can have serious health effects, particularly on growing babies and children.

Due to language, cultural or other barriers, many who depend on "catching their dinners" may not be in the information loop to understand about local pollution alerts.

A new education program, Fish School: Taking Stock of Risks and Benefits, will involve scientists, nutritional experts, extension educators, teachers and students who will reach out to southern Lake Michigan communities at school fairs and local festivals to raise awareness about the risks, as well as the benefits of eating fish in those who need it the most, women in their child-bearing years and families who fish for their food.

"The Calumet River is one of the most polluted rivers in the country, yet many immigrants regularly fish along its banks as they did in their countries of origin," according to Diana Dummit, Illinois Science Teachers Association's former executive director who is now the associate director of development in the University of Illinois, College of Medicine.

"Even those who don't fish can be at risk," Leslie Dorworth added she is a Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant water quality specialist. "Due to limited resources, some people rely on canned tuna to provide a significant portion of their diet. On the other hand, others believe that lakes and rivers are unclean and simply stop eating fish. But fish are an important part of a healthy diet."

To help strike a balance, the Illinois Science Teachers Association and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) are working together with other agencies and universities to foster creative ways for people to learn from each other. "Brochures can have all the right information, but the reality may not sink in," said Dummitt.

With funding from United States EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, Fish School begins on May 21 with a one-day workshop for 20 middle and high school science, health, and food and nutrition teachers in the region to learn the latest research data about fish consumption concerns directly from scientists and to work with University of Illinois Extension educators to develop teaching programs and plan health expos. Teachers interested in participating in this workshop can find more information on the IISG Web site at www.iisgcp.org/edk-12/FishSchool/index.htm.

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