Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dept. of Sick and Wrong

If the trout are lost, smash the state.
—Tom McGuane

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a disturbing story about the chemicals and heavy metals found in our last best places. The levels are off the charts.

The report comes from a six-year study out today that examined pollution levels in eight western parks.

Quote: "We're looking at some of the most pristine areas left in North America that are under the protection of the national parks, and we're finding some alarming results," said Dixon Landers, a senior scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency's National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory.

Trout from Olympic National Park recorded some of the highest mercury levels measured in the study and were considered unsafe for human consumption. Fish caught at Golden Lake in Mount Rainier National Park sported the highest levels of—ahem—flame retardants (PBDEs).

Quote: Among the report's more surprising results were signs that some male fish were "feminized." For years researchers have linked female egg proteins in male fish with the presence of obvious estrogen sources, such as birth control in sewage waste. In the park study, the protein was found in some of the fish with the highest levels of chemicals that can mimic hormones—including PBDEs.

FOTL is very unhappy about this report. FOTL doesn't buy trout from behind a refrigerated glass case or trout wrapped in plastic or even trout from a restaurant. FOTL wouldn't order Truite au Bleu from the most famous French restaurant where Truite au Bleu is the specialty, M.F.K. Fisher be damned. In short, FOTL doesn't do farmed fish. FOTL catches his own wild trout in the backcountry and cooks it up proper.

And if the trout are toxic waste dumps, what about the mushrooms? Fungi are famous for concentrating chemicals and heavy metals in the environment. Should we be avoiding those gifts of the earth like the plague too?

There's only one recourse: Get involved. Make change happen.


Anonymous said...

Although I share your concern for the presence of man-made chemicals in wild places, let alone our food, which are often added in processing, I don't think "off the charts" is appropriate. The levels are relatively low. Considering the FDA allows PCBs in fish at 2 part per Million, the levels found were in the part per billion, a thousand times less. It's doubtful there would be enough fish in any of those lakes for an adult to eat enough fish to have much affect on their rate of getting cancer (which is 1 in 5.

Unfortunately their presence is a global issue, nothing we do in Washington will effect the deposition of pollutants from Asia.

Langdon Cook said...

Hmmm...could "Anonymous" be none other than one of Seattle's crack EPA gurus? It's no surprise that Anonymous is ready to ingest chemicals beyond the limits considered safe...

A few quotes from the article:

"...[fish] so polluted they reached unsafe levels for routine human consumption..."

"Mercury levels in some fish from Olympic National Park were some of the highest measured in the study, exceeding the 185 parts per billion standard that triggers warnings for people."

"The concentrations were well into the danger zone for wildlife that eat fish..."

But please tell us more about why these findings shouldn't alarm us. Thanks!