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April 15, 2005
For immediate release

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Trout From O’Keefe Lake PEI

Health and Social Services

Mercury levels in some trout caught this year from O’Keefe Lake in Avondale, Prince Edward Island have been found to contain mercury above the national guideline level of 0.5 parts per million. Trout from this lake have been tested yearly for mercury since 2000 and there has been a slow increase in the levels each year.

The PEI Department of Health and Social Services is advising the public that women in the child bearing years and children 8 years of age and younger should avoid eating trout from O’Keefe Lake. This advisory is provided as a precaution since toxic effects from mercury at the levels found in O’Keefe Lake do not occur unless the fish is eaten frequently. Fish from other lakes, ponds or brooks on PEI have not been found to have mercury above the national guidelines.

High levels of mercury can cause harmful effects on the nervous system of young children resulting in behavioral disorders and learning problems. Mercury can also cause toxic effects to unborn children whose mothers eat fish containing high levels of mercury.

Mercury is a naturally-occurring element and is taken up and stored in the tissue of fish. O’Keefe Lake is the only area of several sampled in Prince Edward Island from which fish with elevated mercury levels were found, and this may be due to the slow drainage of water from this lake.

Mercury is also generated by some industrial processes and by the burning of fossil fuels, such as heavy oil and coal. Many large coal-fired power plants operate in the eastern United States and the mercury and other pollutants from these plants are transported into Atlantic Canada by the prevailing winds. Much of PEI’s mercury comes from this area, as well as from Ontario and Quebec.

Mercury can also be found in thermometers, thermostats, electrical switches, old paints and dyes, computers, batteries, medical equipment and fluorescent light bulbs.

Media Contact: Dr. Lamont Sweet
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