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EPA launches major Southern California fish consumption education campaign; White Croaker & other fish contaminated with DDT, PCBs

Release Date: 10/10/2003
Contact Information: Leo Kay, Press Office, (415) 947-4306

LONG BEACH -- During a ceremony this afternoon at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri kicked off a major campaign to educate anglers, store owners and consumers on the dangers of eating locally caught fish contaminated with pollutants such as DDT and PCBs.

The EPA and a consortium of partners known as the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative will spend the next several years educating Southern Californians on the health risks associated with eating contaminated fish, particularly White Croaker, caught off the coast of Los Angeles and Orange counties. The campaign urging the public to "Know Your Fish, Reduce the Risk" includes informational brochures and outreach in 10 languages, targeting consumers, small community markets and anglers who fish at local piers and shorelines. The campaign is part of the EPA's program to address human health risks posed by fish contamination related to the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund Site.

People who eat contaminated fish risk significant health problems, including cancer, liver disease and problems with the immune and endocrine system. During pregnancy and lactation, mothers can pass DDTs, PCBs and other chemicals to their infants. Because these chemicals affect development, children through adolescence and women of childbearing age are more sensitive to their harmful effects and should be especially careful.

"Today we are launching a major outreach campaign to educate southern Californians on the risks associated with eating certain locally caught fish," Nastri said. "It is important that we all educate ourselves and others on safe practices.

"Eating fish is an important part of a healthy diet," said Rosa Lara, program coordinator, of the Multicultural Area Health Education Center, an FCEC partner. "However, some fish you catch off the coast of Los Angeles and Orange counties can pose a serious health risk if eaten regularly."

In particular, high levels of DDTs and PCBs have been found in white croaker (also called kingfish or tomcod), in part because these fish feed off the bottom of the ocean floor where the chemicals are located. White croaker is also a fatty fish, and DDTs and PCBs tend to build up in fatty tissues.

To reduce exposure to DDTs and PCBs when eating fish caught locally, people should take the following precautions:

  • Eat only the fillet;
  • Before cooking, remove and throw away the head, guts, kidney, liver and fatty parts such as the skin and belly flap;
  • Bake, broil, steam or grill fish, letting the fatty juices drip away.

Owners of small markets and consumers are urged to question the source of the fish they buy and eat. While most markets buy from licensed, commercial fishermen who know how to fish in legally designated areas in order to avoid contamination, some small markets and individuals may buy from anglers without commercial licenses who fish in contaminated areas and sell their catch illegally.

The Fish Contamination Education Collaborative is a partnership between the U.S. EPA, federal and state government agencies, local health departments, community based organizations and public institutions. For a map of the affected areas and more information about the health risks associated with eating contaminated fish, or ways to reduce your exposure to chemicals in the fish you eat, visit

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