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MADISON – Almost all of the men 50 and older who responded to a survey about fish consumption knew about mercury-based advisories while 67 percent were aware of advisories related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in fish, according to a report in the current issue of WMJ (vol. 112, no. 3). The study by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) also found that more than half of the respondents made at least one behavioral change because of concerns with contamination.
As part of a grant funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, DHS surveyed men 50 and older who fished in Wisconsin waters and lived in Wisconsin at least part of the year. That demographic was targeted because previous DHS research found that older, male anglers eat more sport fish and have higher body burdens of persistent contaminants found in fish than other groups.
Results from the survey, which was completed by 827 fishermen between October 2011 and May 2012, were used to evaluate existing advisory approaches, identify gaps and offer suggestions for adapting communication approaches.
Survey respondents provided information about their fishing practices, the species of fish they catch and eat, their awareness of local and statewide consumption advisories, and their consumption of sport fish (caught by the respondent or someone they knew) and commercially purchased fish. Most of those who completed the survey (73 percent) ate sport fish more than once a month and 26 percent ate sport fish more than once a week.
“Men who ate sport fish more than once a week were more likely to be very knowledgeable of these advisories,” the authors wrote. “The fact that men who ate more sport fish knew more about the consumption advisories is encouraging since these men are at greater risk of exposure.”
Respondents’ most frequent source of advisory information about locally caught sport fish was the fishing regulation guide published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and provided with their license. “Although awareness was high, penetration of traditional outreach materials was low with fewer than 35 percent having seen any of the pamphlets featured in the survey,” the report said.
Because only 4 percent of respondents identified health care professionals as a source of advisory information, the authors suggest that DHS may need to encourage physicians and other medical personnel to discuss with patients the health benefits of eating fish that are low in mercury and other contaminants.
Published by the Wisconsin Medical Society, WMJ is devoted to the interests of the medical profession and health care in the Midwest. This peer-reviewed publication, which is available in print and electronic format, is one of the few state medical society-sponsored medical journals that publish a large amount of original research and academic content.
All articles published in WMJ represent the views of the authors, for which neither WMJ nor the Wisconsin Medical Society take responsibility, unless clearly stated.