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Mercury hits dangerous level in 2 Utah waterways, fish

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SALT LAKE CITY — State officials Thursday issued an advisory regarding elevated mercury levels found in striped bass in two southern Utah bodies of water.

The warning includes fish in Lake Powell from Dangling Rope Marina, south to the dam in Kane and San Juan counties, and Quail Creek Reservoir in Washington County.

The advisory also comes with revised consumption guidelines.

Why is mercury dangerous?

Mercury is an element that is found all over the earth, in soil, rocks and water. Even trace amounts can be found in the air.

If humans are exposed to any of the forms of mercury they can become very ill, or possibly die.

Although various forms of mercury can cause some different symptoms, the effects that are most toxic occur in the brain and nervous system of humans and other animals.

In fact, the phrase "Mad as a Hatter" originated in the 1800's from the observation that people (hatters) who used mercury to process felt for hats often developed mental changes.



Pregnant women and children under age 6 should limit their consumption of striped bass to one 4-ounce meal per month, the advisory states. Women of childbearing age and children between ages 6 and 16 should limit their consumption of striped bass to two 8-ounce meals per month. Adult women past childbearing age and men older than 16 should limit their consumption of striped bass to eight 8-ounce meals per month.

The health department advises that consumption of fish over those levels over a long period of time could result in an intake of mercury that exceeds federal health recommendations.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be transformed into methylmercury, a toxic form found in some natural waters. Chronic exposure to low concentrations of methylmercury may result in neurological effects in developing fetuses and children.

Previous sampling of mercury had found elevated levels in brown trout at Jordanelle and Porcupine reservoirs, Weber and Duchesne rivers and the east fork of the Sevier River. Other species of fish in Utah found to have elevated mercury include rainbow trout, wiper and smallmouth bass.

Since 2000, fish in 322 water bodies in Utah have been tested for mercury. Fish with elevated levels of mercury have been found in 21 of the 322 waterbodies.

For a complete list of fish advisories and revised consumption guidelines visit

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue


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