In most places where MDE sampled fish, the levels of cancer-causing PCBs in their bodies were high enough to warrant some limits on the amount of fish people should eat from those waters. The Environmental Protection Agency has banned the use of PCBs, but some electrical equipment containing them is still in use, and illegally dumped PCBs are a common pollution source nationwide.
In many places, levels of mercury, which can cause developmental damage in children, were high enough to pose a long-term threat to human health. The banned pesticides, classified by the EPA as probable causes of cancer in humans, were also widespread.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Thursday's editions of The Sun about new fish-consumption advisories in Maryland incorrectly said the state recommends that people not eat certain fish if they came from any of the state's lakes or reservoirs. In fact, the Department of the Environment recommends limiting meals of five species if caught in a lake - smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, pickerel or walleye - but does not urge avoiding them completely. The Sun regrets the error.
"The sins of the past are coming back to haunt us," Eskin said.
Outside experts agreed. "It really shows you that what we're dealing with is a long-term legacy problem of pollutants, not only in [underwater] sediments but also in the soils on land," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Kelly Eisenman, toxics coordinator for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay program, said the findings "underscore the importance of controlling the pollution that's still out there."
"A lot of these contaminants are banned, but they're still bound to the soils in the watershed," washing into rivers whenever it rains, Eisenman said.
The complete list of consumption advisories is available today on MDE's Web site at www.mde. state.md.us/fish_tissue/index.html or by calling 800-633-6101, Ext. 3906.
Sun staff writer Candus Thomson contributed to this article.