Mercury in the Environment
Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that has contaminated waterbodies worldwide. Mercury is emitted to the atmosphere through burning of fossil fuels, trash and medical waste. When it is deposited in watersheds, it transforms into methylmercury, which is highly toxic and easily enters the food web. Methylmercury can become particularly concentrated in large, carnivorous fish.
Mercury and Health
Mercury has been found at levels exceeding health guidelines in freshwater fish in many lakes and ponds in the northeast. Women who are pregnant and young children should select fish with low levels of mercury. Brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and yellow perch have lower mercury levels, as does store-bought “light” tuna. Walleye, smallmouth bass, and chain pickerel show the highest concentrations of mercury along with store-bought swordfish and shark. Please see the Health Department’s website (www.healthvermont.gov) or the mercury website (www.mercvt.org) for the most current advisory.
It is illegal to use lead sinkers weighing one-half ounce or less.
Loons and some other water birds can die from lead poisoning after swallowing lead fishing sinkers and jigs lost by anglers, accounting for up to 50 percent of dead adult loons. You can help by switching to non-lead fishing tackle and by helping to spread the word for others to do the same. Lead is the leading cause of observed loon deaths here in the Northeast.
What can you do to help?
Other ways to help loons:
Preventing Human Lead Exposure from Fishing Sinkers
Some fishing sinkers contain lead which is toxic when eaten, breathed in, or absorbed through the skin.
In order to prevent exposure to lead, please handle lead sinkers with care and use the following guidelines:
If you suspect lead poisoning in your child or yourself, call:
Vermont Department of Health
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
800-439-8550 or 802-865-7786
For a screening, public information and technical assistance, contact:
The National Lead Information Center
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.