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EPA Awards Four Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grants to Reduce Health Risks from Eating Great Lakes Fish

Release Date: 11/20/2013
Contact Information: Anne Rowan, 312-353-9391, rowan.anne@epa.gov (media only)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the award of four Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling over $3.6 million for projects designed to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury and other toxins for people who eat fish from the Great Lakes. EPA awarded almost a million dollars to state health departments in each of the following states: Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Cornell University in New York will receive a GLRI grant of over $600,000 for a project to reduce toxic exposure among urban anglers throughout the entire Great Lakes basin.

“These EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants fund work that will help people make better decisions about the health benefits and risks of eating Great Lakes fish,” said Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager. “The projects funded by this year’s grants will build on work funded by EPA in prior years – which found that despite significant progress on these issues, ten percent of babies born along the north shore of Lake Superior had mercury levels above the EPA dose limit.”

“Our work will enable urban residents who fish to continue to take advantage of Great Lakes fish as a food source while reducing their exposure to dangerous toxins,” said Bruce Lauber, senior research associate, Cornell University. Cornell will use the GLRI grant to develop and test several versions of fish consumption information for anglers in urban areas throughout the Great Lakes basin, where fish may be more highly contaminated and where anglers may be more dependent on the fish they catch for food. Cornell will then determine what types of information prompt anglers to adopt healthier fish consumption practices.

The Michigan Department of Community Health will target low-income residents statewide -- especially women of childbearing age -- with established “Eat Safe Fish” messaging through Michigan’s Medicaid program. Subsistence anglers in the Detroit area will also be targeted with similar messaging. In addition, MDCH will develop online education materials on safe fish consumption for Detroit-area nurses and dietitians.

“We’re excited to have received this important grant,” said Patricia McCann, research scientist, Minnesota Health Department. “It will help achieve reductions in mercury exposures from fish consumption in women of childbearing age in the North Shore region of Lake Superior and the Great Lakes basin overall.” Minnesota will test the effectiveness of “user friendly” information in changing fish consumption habits. Minnesota will also increase the number of women participating in a study to determine whether screening questions help health care practitioners accurately predict their patients’ mercury exposure.

Henry A. Anderson, M.D., State Health Officer, Wisconsin Department of Health Services said, “This grant allows us to expand our partnerships with clinicians and health care systems, and better inform study participants about how to balance the benefits of eating sport caught fish with information on contaminants.” WDHS health care clinics on the south shore of Lake Superior will use a screening tool to assess patients’ risk of exposure and test the mercury levels of patients who frequently eat Great Lakes fish.

Since 2010, EPA has awarded GLRI grants each year to states, municipalities, tribes, universities and nonprofit organizations. In July 2013, EPA announced the availability of up to $9.5 million for competitive grants to fund a new round of projects to protect and restore the Great Lakes. This year, EPA received 63 applications requesting over $25.6 million for GLRI projects. EPA will announce additional GLRI grants in the coming weeks.

For more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, visit http://www.glri.us/