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Ecology and salmon related articles

Study: Alarming Levels of
Toxics in Columbia River Fish

by Keely Chalmers
KGW, September 30, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new study found alarming levels of toxic chemicals in fish caught in the Columbia River.

One aspect of the study that was especially unique: It tested the kinds of fish people usually take home and eat themselves or serve to their families. The fish tested were resident fish, living in the river year-round.

The environmental watchdog group Columbia Riverkeeper tested for contaminants including PCB's and flame retardants which have been banned in the U.S., but still show up in waterways like the Columbia River. Contaminants were detected in all of the fish that were tested.

One Walleye caught in the Multnomah Channel near Sauvie Island contained cancer-causing PCB's 175 times higher than the safe limit, according to the study. A carp caught near Vancouver contained PCBs 30 times above the safe limit, along with high levels of flame retardants and other heavy metals.

"These contaminants, they can cause cancer. They're endocrine disrupters, so they can disrupt reproductive systems and developmental systems," explained Lorrie Epstein with Columbia Riverkeeper.

The Department of Environmental Quality has found similar levels of toxics in fish tested elsewhere along both the Columbia River and Willamette River.

DEQ officials said PCB's are still used in some inks and dyes, even though they were banned back in 1970's. The agency is working with industries to prevent new pollution in area rivers, but officials admit that it will take a long time to get those levels back down.

Keely Chalmers
Study: Alarming Levels of Toxics in Columbia River Fish
KGW, September 30, 2014

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