(KDAL) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a $1.4 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Minnesota Department of Health to reduce mercury exposure risk for women and children who live along Lake Superior’s north shore. Excessive blood mercury levels have been documented in infants in the area. The funding will be used to improve health screening and to develop more effective fish consumption advisories.
Many Great Lakes fish are unsafe to eat because of mercury contamination according to the EPA Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. The project is designed to help women make choices that minimize their exposure to mercury, but maximize the health benefits of eating fish.
The Grand Portage Chippewa Tribe and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinics in Grand Portage and Grand Marais, Minnesota will participate in the MDH project. Physicians affiliated with the clinics will survey consenting female patients of childbearing age about fish consumption and test blood mercury levels. Patients will also be counseled to promote safe fish consumption choices.
The work supported by the grant will build on an earlier EPA-funded study which was completed last year by MDH. In that study, 1,465 newborns in the Lake Superior Basin – including 139 infants from Wisconsin and 200 from Michigan – were tested for mercury in their blood. The study found that 8 percent of the infants had mercury levels higher than those recommended as safe by EPA.