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EPA says 28 percent of U.S. lakes have contaminated fish

WASHINGTON — More than one-fourth of the nation's lakes have advisories warning consumers that fresh-caught fish may be contaminated with mercury, dioxins, or other chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday.

The EPA said state regulators issued 2,618 fishing advisories or bans in 2001 because of contaminants.

Eating fish that contain high concentrations of mercury, dioxins, PCBs, and other industrial chemicals can be especially harmful to pregnant women and children, according to the EPA.

In 2001, the state advisories covered 28 percent of the nation's total lake acreage, up from 26 percent in 2000, the EPA said. Some 14 percent of U.S. rivers were covered by advisories in 2001, up from 10.5 percent in the previous year.

States that had the most fishing advisories include Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, and New Jersey.

Some of the affected waterways include Lake Champlain, Florida's Sarasota Bay, Washington's Puget Sound, and the Potomac River which feeds into Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, the EPA said.

State regulators have several options when contaminated fish are found in a waterway or lake, depending on the chemical and amount. The states can ban eating all fish from a certain area, advise pregnant women to avoid eating a specific kind of fish, or urge consumers to eat smaller amounts of fish caught in a particular section of a waterway.

Details about state fishing advisories were posted by the EPA on its Internet site.

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