Specially designed pseudo-fish constructed by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and suspended in the Potomac absorb chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fragrances that contaminate the river, according to a recent Washington Post article. The simulated fish consisted of a plastic-coated tube representing a fishâ€™s permeable skin, enclosing a layer of fake fat. Chemical contaminants concentrated in this fat -â€“ and scientists are concerned that these contaminants could cause disruption in the hormone systems of (real) fish. Could eating fish contaminated with hormone-disrupting chemicals affect our health? According to the article, "Scientists said there was no evidence of a threat to human health." No one knows for sure, but a study presented at last yearâ€™s conference for the American Association for Cancer Research suggests cause for concern. In this study, researchers exposed breast cancer cells to extracts from fish caught in rivers near Pittsburgh. Some of the fish extracts triggered significant growth of these estrogen-sensitive cancer cells. The researchers concluded that people in Pittsburgh at risk for breast cancer may want to â€œavoid eating locally caught fish.â€
The Potomac and Pittsburgh's rivers are not unusual - these days, you'll find traces of the same sorts of pesticides and industrial chemicals in any major river in America. That these chemicals end up in the fish we eat, and sometimes even in the water we drink, seems a recipe for disaster.
Photo: Fishing in the Potomac by sosico.