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DHS news release

August 10, 2005


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Technical contact: Julie Early (503) 872-6804


Fish hazards prompt mini-grants for community groups



For a third year, the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is making available small grants in the Portland area to educate various community and ethnic groups about health risks of eating fish from the Willamette River.


DHS will award two to five grants, funded with federal dollars, ranging from $2,000 to $4,500 each between Nov. 15 and June 30, 2006. Application deadline is Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. 


"This summer we released a public health assessment which concluded that eating fish from the Portland Harbor could result in health problems, which really underscores the importance of these mini-grants," said Early.


Early said it is well known that various community and ethnic groups regularly catch and eat fish from that area of the river.


"This is an opportunity for leadership organizations, youth groups and churches to help educate others in their own community," Early said. "We have current health information, but it needs to be translated and communicated in ways that take into account specific cultural practices."


In 2000, the federal Environmental Protection Agency added a six-mile section of the Willamette River from the southern tip of Sauvie Island to the Fremont Bridge to its national Superfund list. Sediment contaminants from this section of the river include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides and heavy metals, which tend to build up in fish. The health effects of these contaminants may include cancer and damage to the brain, liver and immune system.


Early advises that children, people with weak immune systems, and women of childbearing age or who are pregnant or nursing who eat fish from these waters should choose those that are lower in PCBs, such as salmon and steelhead.


She also says that since PCBs tend to accumulate in the fat, exposure can be significantly reduced by proper preparation and cooking. This means removing the skin, belly, back and side fat and removing eggs, eyes, head and organs of the fish.


DHS previously awarded six mini-grants to Benson High School Health Occupations Program, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Linnton Community Center, Asian Health & Service Center, Asian Pacific American Consortium on Substance Abuse and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.


The mini-grants are completely funded through a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.