Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | September 10, 2008

Lawyer Sanders says alarming mercury levels in fish caught in Lake Cumberland causes three public agencies to issue health warning.

Kentucky’s Department for Public Health (DPH), the Division of Water and the Department for Fish and Wildlife Resources issued a new health advisory for Cumberland Lake warning people to limit the amount of fish they eat.  Lake Cumberland, which covers more than 38,000 acres in south-central Kentucky, is one of the state’s most heavily visited lakes.  The warning for Lake Cumberland is the result of new tests that show higher mercury levels in fish caught in the lake.  The mercury is coming from coal fired electric generating plants located in Kentucky. 

When electric generating plants burn coal, they release mercury into the atmosphere.  When airborne mercury hits the water, it reacts with bacteria to form an even more toxic substance called methylmercury. The methylmercury is absorbed by one-celled plants and animals, which are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by larger fish. Because of something called “bioaccumulation”, levels of methylmercury increase in fish as it moves up the food chain. Thus, a large predator fish, such as a bass, is likely to contain more mercury than its prey.

It is a crime that you have to worry about eating fish caught in Lake Cumberland.  The problem is so bad that the state is warning children and women of childbearing age not to eat black bass from Lake Cumberland more than six times a year. For everyone else: once a month.  For crappie and rock bass, Kentucky health officials’ suggested limit is a meal a month for women and children, and a meal a week for everyone else. The statewide advisory says women and children should not eat any fish caught in the state’s waters more than once a week.

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