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Environ Res. 2009 Apr;109(3):343-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2008.12.002. Epub 2009 Feb 3.

Perceptions of the risks and benefits of fish consumption: individual choices to reduce risk and increase health benefits.

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Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers University, 604 Allison Road Piscataway, NJ 08854-8082, USA.


Studies of fish consumption often focus on awareness of and adherence to advisories, how much fish people eat, and contaminant levels in those fish. This paper examines knowledge and accuracy of risks and benefits of fish consumption among fishers and other recreationists in the New York Bight, indicative of whether they could make sound dietary decisions. While most respondents knew about health risks (70%) and benefits (94%) of consuming fish, far fewer could name specific risks and benefits. Less than 25% of respondents mentioned mercury and less than 15% mentioned that pregnant women and children were at risk. Far fewer people mentioned polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Nearly 70% said it was healthy to eat fish, and 45% were aware that fish were rich in healthful oils. Despite the lack of details about what specific risks and benefits of fish, well over a third did not feel they needed more information. Other respondents had basic questions, but did not pose specific questions about the fish they caught or ate that would have clarified their individual risk-balancing decisions. Knowledge of which fish were high in contaminants did not match the mercury or PCB levels in those fish. There was a disconnect between the information base about specific risks and benefits of fish consumption, levels of mercury and PCBs in fish, and the respondent's desire for more information. These data indicate that respondents did not have enough accurate information about contaminants in fish to make informed risk-balancing decisions.

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