WASHINGTON, DC -- A federal study of mercury contamination has found the toxic substance in every fish tested at nearly 300 streams across the country, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.
The study was released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey
. It tested thousands of fish from 291 streams nationwide from 1998 to 2005. While all fish had traces of mercury contamination, only about a quarter had levels exceeding what the EPA says is safe for people eating an average amount of fish.
Some of the highest levels in fish were detected in the remote blackwater streams along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.
Mercury can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams is emissions from coal-fired power plants. But at 59 waterways, mining could also be to blame.
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