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Pregnant women should avoid eating Lake Erie fish

Pregnant women should think twice before eating fish caught in Lake Erie. A woman named Mary came to me and asked about environmental toxins after reading a Gannett newspaper article I wrote about mercury in fish. She was one month into pregnancy and ate about 4 fish dinners per week, since she and her husband had a boat and fished Lake Erie’s waters often. Mary had a freezer full of Lake Erie Walleye and Yellow Perch. She stated that she knew how “they” say not to eat Lake Erie fish if you’re pregnant and emphasized that she quit smoking and drinking alcohol. She was skeptical about the research from “they”, and wondered if eating Lake Erie fish was “all that bad” for pregnant women.
Mary was partly correct, for much depends on the species of fish you consume and where the fish were caught. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website, there are 43 contaminated areas identified in the Great Lakes where it is unsafe to eat fish. Ten of these areas are along the Lake Erie shoreline. Unfortunately, the area where Mary and her husband fish from their boat was in one of these areas and, for sure, their catch stored the most chemicals. The good news for Mary is that older and larger fish, sheepshead, white perch, white bass, bullhead, carp or catfish are less safe to eat…and she didn‘t consume those species. Still, she cut down on her fish consumption after reviewing the researched facts. I hope her baby is born healthy!
Two chemicals are prevalent in Lake Erie fish and both can be passed on to your developing infant-PCP's and mercury. Recently, the experts tell us it’s unsafe for pregnant or breast-feeding women to eat even small amounts of Lake Erie fish. I suggest you call your local health department and obtain Ohio’s free fish advisory brochure. It’s a hard fact to swallow, but Lake Erie is still very polluted. In the 60’s, my high school chums and I used to wade out into Lake Erie around the Lakeside and Marblehead shorelines, especially by the Marblehead ferry. We would cast out, using Shyster lures, and haul home stringers of rock bass, white bass, crappie, perch, small and large-mouth bass.
Unfortunately, those fun days are over and pregnant moms and parents of infants who consume Lake Erie fish must remember that their baby’s brain cells are growing more rapidly than any other of their body cells. An explosion of neurons, the future “thinking cells” are growing in abundance throughout their child’s brain, and PCP and mercury has deleterious effects on this process. I would pay attention to Ohio’s fish consumption advisories.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions as school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership & Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. Contact him at the Family Journal

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