The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued its annual fish consumption advisory on Monday, warning residents to eat limited amounts of bass from two waterways in the Upstate.
DHEC added spotted bass and largemouth bass from Lake Keowee and spotted bass from Lake Hartwell to its advisory for rivers, lakes and coastal waters because of high mercury levels that were found in the tissue samples from those species.
The advisory warns that residents should eat no more than one meal per week of spotted or largemouth bass from Lake Keowee. It also suggests that residents should eat no more than one meal per month of spotted bass from Lake Hartwell. One meal is equal to half a pound of fish.
DHEC also recommends that pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, infants and children younger than 14 years old not eat fish from areas included in the advisory. These groups are listed because of the damaging effects that mercury causes to the developing brains and nervous systems of infants and young children.
The body can naturally remove small amounts of mercury, but too much mercury can cause heart disease in adults. Children exposed to mercury can develop cerebral palsy, tremors, blindness, deafness and other malformations, according to the National Institute of Health.
“Fish caught in the state’s waters are safe to eat if people follow the fish consumption advisory guidelines,” said David Baize, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Water. “The advisory helps anglers know what amounts are healthy to eat based on location and species they are catching.”
Contamination in fish occurs because of fossil fuel emissions and pollution. Harmful chemicals such as mercury are released into the atmosphere and then dispersed into waterways by rainfall. Mercury then embeds into the tissues of fish through the plants and animals they eat. However, contamination can only affect humans through the consumption of fish. So residents can still enjoy swimming, boating and other water recreation, according to DHEC.
The complete advisory listing can be found here.