Women Eating Contaminated Fish Have More Breast Cancer
From Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin
Green Bay, WI --- A soon-to-be published study has found
breast cancer rates were higher for pre-menopausal women
in Wisconsin who consumed sport fish contaminated with
PCBs, DDT, and PBDEs. (The average age of menopause is
51.) These toxic chemicals are commonly found in the Fox
River, Green Bay, Lake Michigan and certain other waterways
of Wisconsin. Similar pollution is found in several other
rivers and lakes around the world.
Three Wisconsin zip codes have clusters of unusually
high breast cancer rates confirmed by UW-Madison researchers.
Two zip codes are in Green Bay (54301 and 54311), and
one is in Shorewood. Wisconsin's breast cancer rate is
higher than the national average. Breast cancer incidence
has risen significantly over the past 15 years in Wisconsin.
"This study adds urgency to the Fox River and Green
Bay PCB cleanup effort, and reinforces the need for a
stronger cleanup standard to achieve faster, healthier
results," stated Rebecca Katers, Executive Director
of Clean Water Action Council, a non-profit group based
in Green Bay. "The governments chose a weak cleanup
target of 1 ppm (part per million) PCBs, when their own
science says that 0.25 ppm PCBs is the minimum standard
for achieving public health protection goals in a cost-effective
manner. They are allowing serious health risks to continue
for more than 100 years into the future."
"Better warnings are also needed to alert women
and their families to health risks posed by fish consumption.
Current efforts are completely inadequate," added
Government surveys show that only 50% of Wisconsin residents
who eat sport-caught fish are aware of the advisories,
and only 40% of women and 22% of minorities are aware.
In the Fox River/Green Bay region, 50% of anglers consume
contaminated fish, and 70-80% of minorities.
"The state is downplaying the contamination, to
protect the tourism industry, placing public health at
risk," noted Katers.
Despite years of complaints from concerned environmentalists,
only 40,000 fish consumption advisories are distributed
in Wisconsin each year, enough for only 3.2% of the 1.25
million licensed anglers in the state. The supply would
be inadequate even for the few counties bordering the
Fox River, where 47,000 anglers have licenses.
According to Dr. Jeffery Foran, a toxicologist who reviewed
the state's health warnings under contract to Clean Water
Action Council, the U.S. EPA has developed a risk-based
fish consumption advisory designed to be fully protective
of human health.
If it were used, the public would be warned to virtually
eliminate all consumption of Fox River fish. The Wisconsin
Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) has issued
a much weaker warning, which encourages anglers to eat
some of the fish once per month, or even once per week.
DHFS staff members are holding workshops to encourage
local people, especially minorities, to continue eating
"smaller" fish. The DHFS has abdicated its responsibility
to issue honest health warnings, and should work with
other Great Lakes states to immediately adopt the EPA
Dr. Foran's comments are posted online, at:
The Wisconsin breast cancer study will be published soon
in the science journal Environmental Health Perspectives,
and is already posted online, at
The title of the study is "Potential Exposure to
PCBs, DDT, and PBDEs from Sport-Caught Fish Consumption
in Relation to Breast Cancer Risk in Wisconsin,"
by Jane McElroy, Marty Kanarek, Amy Trentham-Dietz, Stephanie
Robert, John Hampton, Polly Newcomb, Henry Andersen, and
Patrick Remington. Most are researchers at the University
of Wisconsin - Madison, and Dr. Andersen is head of the
Wisconsin Division of Health, DHFS, in Madison.
Contact: Jane McElroy, UW Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Phone: (608) 265-8780, or Rebecca Katers, Clean Water
(Work Phone: 920-437-7304, Home: 920-468-4243)
For more background on the link between PCBs and Breast
Cancer (a summary of 128 study results, with abstracts),
please visit this website: