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Mercury Contamination: California Wants 187 Reservoirs to Issue Fish Consumption Warnings

187 of 300 reservoirs sampled by California Water Resources Control Board have high enough levels of mercury to warrant warnings about eating fish.
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California, beset by drought, has another water problem: reservoirs so contaminated with mercury that state officials want to issue warnings on fish consumption for 180 of 300 the state sampled.

RELATED: Something Fishy About California

Most of the water bodies are clustered in central and southern California, according to a map compiled by the State Water Resources Control Board, which conducted the mercury sampling. Many are popular fishing spots, and reservoir owners are being asked to post voluntary warnings about consuming fish such as bass, the Los Angeles Times reported on July 29.

“Mercury is absorbed by bacteria and transformed into an organic form known as methylmercury. It then spirals up the food chain from tiny invertebrates to small fish, finally concentrating in the bigger fish that eat them,” the Los Angeles Times explained. “Bass are among the biggest and most voracious.”

The suggested move is causing consternation among sport fishers and the businesses that lure them, even though the metal is a health hazard, especially to children and pregnant women. They’re worried about the perceptions and fears that could be sparked that might keep people away from even safer fish, such as trout, that eat plants rather than other fish, the Los Angeles Times noted.

Read “State Officials Want These California Reservoir Owners to Warn People Not to Eat the Fish,” and watch “Big Bear Lake Listed as a 'Mercury Impaired' Reservoir” at the Los Angeles Times.