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County of Los Angeles
Department of Public Health
Environmental Health
5050 Commerce Drive
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
(888) 700-9995
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FISH CONTAMINATION

Fish is an important part of a healthy diet. Itís not only high in protein and low in fat, but itís also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and vision development and can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, cancer and other chronic diseases. Eating fish regularly can help prevent heart disease; thatís why the American Heart Association recommends that people eat 2-3 meals of fish every week.

Unfortunately, some fish contain harmful chemicals like mercury, PCBs and DDTs. If people consume too much contaminated fish, these chemicals can build up in the body and actually increase the risk of health problems.

For most people, eating fishóeven quite a bit of itódoesnít present a problem. However, developing fetuses and young children are especially sensitive to certain contaminants; high levels of mercury, for example, can cause subtle decreases in learning ability, attention and memory. For that reason, itís particularly important that growing children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and women who may become pregnant exercise caution about how much fish and the types of fish they eat.

To help reduce potential harm from contaminated fish, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed some safe eating guidelines. The guidelines provide information to help consumers choose the safest fish to eat and recommend how often these fish can be eaten for the greatest health benefits and minimum risk to health.

  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that tend to be lower in mercury (e.g. shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish).
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers and coastal areas. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is responsible for providing fish consumption advice for water bodies in California; a complete listing of recommendations can be found at: http://oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/index.html. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch yourself in local waters.
Itís not just the kinds of fish you eat and the quantity you consume thatís important. The way you prepare fish can also help protect you against chemical contaminants by reducing your exposure to them.
  • Eat only the fillet of the fish. Throw away the fatty parts such as the head, guts, kidneys, liver, fat and skin because chemical contaminants tend to build up in them.
  • Broil, grill, bake or steam fish on a rack to allow the fat to drain.
  • Throw away the fat drippings; donít use them in the preparation of other foods.

EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL

Fish Contamination Education Collaborative [ English | Spanish ]

Safety Tips for Eating Fish [ English | Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | Korean | Japanese ]

Healthy Fish, Healthy Families [ English | Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | Korean ]

Mercury in Fish [ English | Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese ]

Protect Your Health [ English | Spanish | Tagalog ]

Market Outreach Fish Poster [ English | Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | Korean | Khmer | Tagalog ]

Safety Tips About Fish
     [ English | Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | Korean | Hmong | Khmer | Mien | Russian | Tagalog ]

Safer Fish Preparation and Cooking Guide [ English ]


LINKS

Federal Agencies
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
EPA's Palos Verdes Shelf Website

State Agencies
Environmental Health Investigations Branch (EHIB), California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Food & Drug Branch
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessments (OEHHA)

Other Local Health Departments
City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Environmental Health
Orange County Health Agency

Local Agencies
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (CMA)
Heal the Bay
Pier Fishing in California
United Anglers of Southern California

 

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Director of Environmental Health
Angelo J. Bellomo
Director's Biography
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