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Some fish in Newport Bay contaminated

April 03, 2004

Alicia Robinson

A recent study found some fish in Newport Bay contained high levels

of contaminants that could be harmful to humans, but no official

health advisory has been issued against eating most of those fish.

The Orange County Health Care Agency on Thursday announced that

preliminary results of the study found levels of polychlorinated

biphenyls, commonly known as PCB, and

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dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly known as DDT, exceeded

state recommendations in five fish species collected in Newport Bay

between 2000 and 2002.

The bay is a popular fishing spot, but officials said they're not

sure how many people are eating what they catch there.

PCB, which has been used in electrical equipment, could cause

problems in infant development. DDT is a pesticide that was banned

because of links to cancer. The healthcare agency commissioned the

study, which was performed by the Southern California Coastal Water

Research Project and is still being completed.

"We made the decision that we felt it was prudent to let the

public know these levels in these fish in Newport Bay as soon as

possible," said Larry Honeybourne, spokesman for the Orange County

Health Care Agency.

No official advisory has been issued against eating four of the

five species of contaminated fish, which included jacksmelt,

yellowfin croaker, spotted sand bass and California halibut. An

advisory already was in place for the fifth species, the California

corbina, when caught near the Newport Pier, said Allan Hirsch,

spokesman for the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard

Assessment, which issues fish health advisories.

That office will incorporate the information from the study in an

overall evaluation and update of fish advisories for Los Angeles and

Orange counties that is expected by the end of the year, Hirsch said.

For now, people may want to follow the existing advisory for the

corbina, which recommends eating no more than one meal, or six ounces

for a 150-pound adult, per week, he said.

"The levels of those chemicals [in the other four species] were

low enough that we don't really feel that right now we can rush out

with advice," Hirsch said. "We don't see anything that is overly

alarming or that we feel would constitute a public health emergency."

The Orange County Public Health Agency said the fish contained

levels of PCB up to 57.8 parts per billion, while the Office of

Environmental Health Hazard Assessment considers a level beyond 20

parts per billion a possible health risk. DDT levels went as high as

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