Factors in Exposure Assessment: Ethnic and Socioeconomic Differences in Fishing and Consumption of Fish Caught along the Savannah River


South Carolina has issued fish consumption advisories for the Savannah River based on mercury and radionuclide levels. We examine differences in fishing rates and fish consumption of 258 people interviewed while fishing along the Savannah River, as a function of age, education, ethnicity, employment history, and income, and test the assumption that the average consumption of fish is less than the recreational value of 19 kg/year assumed by risk assessors. Ethnicity and education contributed significantly to explaining variations in number of fish meals per month, serving size, and total quantity of fish consumed per year. Blacks fished more often, ate more fish meals of slightly larger serving sizes, and consumed more fish per year than did Whites. Although education and income were correlated, education contributed most significantly to behavior; people who did not graduate from high school ate fish more often, ate more fish per year, and ate more whole fish than people who graduated from high school. Computing consumption of fish for each person individually indicates that (1) people who eat fish more often also eat larger portions, (2) a substantial number of people consume more than the amount of fish used to compute risk to recreational fishermen, (3) some people consume more than the subsistence level default assumption (50 kg/year) and (4) Blacks consume more fish per year than Whites, putting them at greater risk from contaminants in fish. Overall, ethnicity, age, and education contributed to variations in fishing behavior and consumption.

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Burger, J., Stephens, W.L., Boring, C.S. et al. Factors in Exposure Assessment: Ethnic and Socioeconomic Differences in Fishing and Consumption of Fish Caught along the Savannah River. Risk Anal 19, 427–438 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007048628467

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  • Ethnicity
  • fish consumption
  • advisories
  • Savannah River
  • methylmercury
  • risk perception