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Toxic Fish Pose Threat to Valley Residents

Photo of Muhammad Aziz

The Donna Reservoir and Canal System has long been a popular fishing spot for residents of the Rio Grande Valley. However, the fish from these waters pose major health risks to those who consume them. Federal environmental regulators and Texas health officials have known of this danger for twenty-three years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating the Donna Reservoir in 1993. The investigation was prompted by the disproportionate number of infants in the area born with neural tube defects, or birth defects of the brain and spine. Although no definitive connection was found between the birth defects and eating the fish, there was no denying that the fish were dangerous.

According to testing, the fish had high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. PCBs were once used in electrical and industrial equipment, but have since been banned due to health concerns. Health officials determined that the concentration of PCBs in the fish from the Donna reservoir were the highest ever recorded in fish. PCBs are stored in the fat of the fish and are known to increase the risk of cancer, as well as cause liver and immune system problems.

It is illegal to fish in the Donna Reservoir and Canal System, and has been for decades. Nonetheless, fishing these waters remains common. Poor families see the fish as a cheap food, and some entrepreneurs sell the fish to their neighbors.

Unfortunately, this problem does not seem likely to disappear soon. The source of the contaminants remains unknown and efforts to keep people from consuming the fish have been largely ineffective.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by eating contaminated or unsafe food, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend for a free consultation by calling 713-222-7211 or toll free at 1-800-870-9584.

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