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Fish Consumption Advice for Alaskans

In addition to the Statewide Maternal Hair Mercury Biomonitoring Program, the Alaska Native Traditional Food Safety Monitoring Program began in 1999 as a multi-agency collaborative program designed to monitor human tissue levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals, and micronutrients in a group of isolated rural subsistence-dependent Alaska Native mothers and infants.19 As of November 2005, the program enrolled 205 Alaska Native mother/baby pairs. Maternal participants had a mean blood mercury level of 6.6 parts per billion (ppb) with a maximum level of 14.1 ppb. All blood mercury levels were well below that associated with subtle health effects in the developing fetus (approximately 58 ppb in maternal blood based on data from the Faroe Islands epidemiological study).

Fish Consumption Rates in Alaska Current population-based fish consumption rates provide important information when developing fish consumption advice. This information allows public health officials to assess whether documented contaminant levels in fish might put consumers at risk due to fish consumption rates, or if fish tissue contaminant concentrations are irrelevant because the item is not consumed.

Many Alaskans eat far more fish than the average American, especially in rural areas that rely on fish for subsistence.20 Alaska is a large state with diverse ecological regions, and the people that inhabit these various ecological regions have different cultures and diets. These features present challenges to the comprehensive study of diets in Alaska. The Alaska Traditional Diet Survey was recently undertaken to fill this data gap (Table 5). 21


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