A study of 313 infants born in Michigan hospitals reveals that mothers eating fish from the Great Lakes have a shortened gestation period and produce babies that are shorter, weigh less, have smaller heads, and suffer from behavioral disorders in their reflexes at birth. Women in the "high exposure" category ate about 14 pounds of Great Lakes fish per year for six years or more. (Average fish consumption in the U.S. is 17 pounds per person per year.)
The culprit in the Great Lakes is PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which contaminate all fish in the Great Lakes (and, indeed, in many other bodies of water, such as the coastal oceans). PCBs enter the Great Lakes principally as air pollution. Historically, PCBs have been poured on the ground and left to evaporate slowly into the atmosphere. Later, they are brought back to earth by rain.
The study of Michigan women and their babies is: Greta Fein and others, INTRAUTERINE EXPOSURE OF HUMANS TO PCBS; NEWBORN EFFECTS (Duluth, MN: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Laboratory, 1984); available for $13.95 from: National Technical Information Service (NTIS), Springfield, VA 22161; phone (703) 487-4600. Ask for publication No. PB8418-888-7.
Descriptor terms: pcbs; death; death statistics; fish; great lakes; birth defects; developmental disorders; mi; water contamination; water; health; health statistics; epa; studies; findings;