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Guide to Eating Fish Safely
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Alerts pregnant women to the possible dangers of eating fish caught in Massachusetts streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and some coastal waters.

They advise that pregnant women, nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant DO NOT EAT any fish from certain freshwater bodies or certain fish. The Department of Public Health has advised the local Board of Health here in Oxford that there are fish contaminated with Mercury in Buffumville Lake - Charlton and Oxford and Texas Pond with Mercury in Largemouth Bass.

Children under 12 years old are also at risk and SHOULD NOT EAT these fish.

A VARIED DIET, INCLUDING SAFE FISH, WILL LEAD TO GOOD NUTRITION AND BETTER HEALTH.

REMEMBER FISH IS GOOD FOR YOU! CHOOSE FISH THAT ARE SAFE TO EAT!

What is Unsafe About The Fish Listed in This Advisory?

These fish and shellfish may contain chemicals that can harm you and your baby’s health. This advisory does not apply to fish stocked in lakes and ponds.

What Chemicals Are They?

Mercury and PCBs are the primary contaminants of concern. Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in the environment. However, mercury is also released by burning trash or burning coal for fuel. Once released into the air it can travel long distances and be deposited on soil and in water bodies. PCBs are man-made chemicals that were banned in the 1970s. However, due to their widespread use, they can still be found in our environment and get into our food.

How do Chemicals and Metals Get into the Fish?

Chemicals and metals get into the fish from pollution in the water and sediments where they live. Larger species feed on smaller species and the process of bioaccumulation begins. Bioaccumulation means that the chemicals or metals concentrate in the fish. The larger, older fish concentrate the most chemicals.

How Do These Chemicals Affect Health?

Developing fetuses, nursing babies, and young children are affected by mercury. Small amounts can damage a brain even before birth. High levels of mercury can affect how well children learn, think, behave, and develop later in life.  Children who have been exposed to mercury in the womb can experience symptoms even if their mothers do not. PCBs can also affect developing fetuses, nursing babies, and young children.

Is There a Way of Cleaning or Cooking the Fish to Get Rid of the Chemicals?

Remove the skin, and fatty material and dark meat from the fish before cooking. Broil the fish instead of frying it to allow as much fat as possible to be drained away. However, if the fish contains mercury, there is no way to clean or remove the chemical. It can’t be cut, cleaned or cooked out.

Can These Chemicals Affect Adults and Older Children?

Yes. At higher levels, adults and older children can experience health effects from these chemicals. Some of these chemicals can affect memory or behavior. They can make your skin tingle or feel numb. Some are also suspected of causing liver problems and some types of cancer.

Should My Family and I Stop Eating Fish Altogether?

No.  Absolutely NOT. Fish is good for you and your family. It is a good source of protein and low in fat. It may also protect you against heart disease. If you may become pregnant or are pregnant or nursing, you and your children under 12 ounces (about 2 meals) per week of fish or shellfish not covered in this advisory. It is important to follow the Safe Eating Guidelines at the end of this page.

Can I Eat Canned Tuna?

"Light" tuna as opposed to "Chunk White" tuna (also called albacore) has been shown to contain lesser amounts of mercury. Consumers should eat no more than 12 ounces per week. Very small children, including toddlers, should eat less.

SAFE EATING GUIDELINES FOR PREGNANT WOMEN, WOMEN WHO MAY BECOME PREGNANT, NURSING MOTHERS AND CHILDREN UNDER 12 YEARS OLD

Freshwater fish caught in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds in Massachusetts
DO NOT EAT

Fish that are stocked in streams, rivers, lakes and ponds in Massachusetts
SAFE TO EAT

Cod, Haddock, Flounder and Pollock in larger amounts
SAFE TO EAT

Lobster from New Bedford Harbor
DO NOT EAT

Swordfish, Shark, King Mackerel, Tilefish, and Tuna Steak
DO NOT EAT

Bluefish caught off the Massachusetts coast
DO NOT EAT

Lobsters, flounder, soft-shelled clams and bivalves from Boston Harbor


SAFE EATING GUIDELINES FOR EVERYONE

Fish and Shellfish from the inner areas of New Bedford Harbor
DO NOT EAT

Lobster Tomalley
DO NOT EAT

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO CHOOSE FISH THAT ARE SAFE TO EAT CONTACT:

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health
 Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment
250 Washington Street
7th Floor
Boston, MA 02108

Telephone Number: 617-624-5757


 

Town of Oxford, 325 Main Street, Oxford MA 01540
Hours: M-F 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM

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