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The Planet
March 1999 Volume 6, Number 2


The People Problem

Dear Editor:

In the Jan./Feb. Planet, there are some good articles, including one on the International Program. However, the connections are never made between Sierra Club priorities and people!

How can an article about sprawl or global warming or logging not mention population? Why do we have farmland taken over by houses, roads, shopping centers? Obviously, more people.

To pick at specific problems without getting to the root of the problems is futile! Population growth is the most important issue in the world. Most scientists agree. Sierra Club does not face this problem.

- Anita King
Williamsburg, Mass.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Toxic Fish


I was disappointed to read an inaccuracy in the Jan./Feb. Planet. In the quiz, you say, "The pollution in Lake Superior is so bad that there's a limit on the number of fish from there it's safe to eat." You ask, "How many are you allowed in one month?" Answer: "One." This is correct only if you are a woman or child eating a Chinook salmon over 22 inches long, according to the "Michigan Fish Advisory" published by the Michigan Department of Community Health in January 1998. The general population is able to consume unlimited amounts of this fish.

- Angela Poppe
Howell, Mich.

Eric Uram, director of the Clean Water = Safe Fish project in the Club's Great Lakes Program, replies:

Ms. Poppe is partly correct. The only fish restricted to one meal per month for Lake Superior by the state of Michigan is Chinook salmon over 22 inches and only for populations sensitive to pollutants that build up in fish (women of childbearing age and children under 15).

But that's just one state's advisory - three states and one Canadian province have jurisdiction over Lake Superior - and it's only for one kind of fish.

In addition to its salmon advisory, Michigan recommends no consumption of Ciscowet over 18 inches for anyone due to high levels of PCBs, chlordane and toxaphene. Michigan also recommends that sensitive populations not eat lake trout over 18 inches and the general population should avoid trout over 30 inches.

Wisconsin and Minnesota recommend restricting all sizes of brown trout to one meal per month due to PCBs. Because of mercury pollution, Wisconsin recommends a limit of one meal per month for walleye under 18 inches. Walleye bigger than 18 inches shouldn't be eaten at all.

Sound confusing? It is. This is why we are working for simpler, more uniform recommendations to fix this problem.

The Club recommends that both sensitive populations and the public in general restrict their intake of fish even more than the advisories state. Agencies have not conducted complete testing on all of the 33 chemicals known to build up in fish and wildlife, nor have they studied how the chemicals interact with each other to affect human health. Until all the science is in, we believe the advisories may not go far enough.

Go on to the next article, "Create Demand, Establish Accountability, Take Delivery."
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