Differences in Mercury Exposure among Wisconsin  Anglers Arising from Fish Consumption Preferences and Advisory Awareness

Fish are frequently contaminated with mercury, raising concerns about the human health consequences of eating fish. We quantified mercury exposure and awareness of health advisories among three major ethnic groups of anglers in Madison, Wisconsin, using surveys of species preferences and consumption rates. African American anglers reported eating double and triple the amount of fish consumed by Hmong Americans and Whites, respectively. However, Hmong Americans preferred species with higher levels of contamination, resulting in net mercury exposure comparable to that of African Americans. Few anglers exceeded personal exposure recommendations, but the majority shared fi sh with family or friends. Children are particularly sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of heavy metals, and one-third of anglers reported providing fish to children. African Americans reported the least knowledge about advisories, but misconceptions about mercury existed in each ethnic group. Our findings highlight the need to tailor advisories for specific groups of anglers based on consumption rates, preferred species, and favored communication channels. Improved messaging is particularly important for guiding informed fish consumption by families.

By:  Andrew L. Stevens, Ian G. Baird, and Peter B. McIntyre