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NC DEQ is the state agency responsible for collecting fish tissue data. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) conducts testing of contaminant concentrations in fish tissues of fish caught in bodies of water around the state. These tests can be requested by the NC Department of Environmental Quality, by local health departments, or during a public health evaluation at a hazardous waste location.
Next, fish are tested for contaminant concentrations. NC DHHS uses the information from the fish tissue testing along with general information and their best guesses about the types and amounts of fish eaten by the average person to assess the health risk. They sometimes take into account subsistence consumers as well. If they identify a significant health risk for a group of people as a result of eating certain types of fish, then NC DHHS will issue a fish consumption advisory for that body of water.
In March 2019, the North Carolina Fish Forum was hosted by UNC-CH, NCSU, and the DUSR-Community Engagement Core to bring together stakeholders involved in issuing and communicating Fish Consumption Advisories. Our goal was to discuss opportunities and challenges for improving the fish consumption advisory process in North Carolina. We are currently working on a white paper (an official publication) with recommendations–stay tuned for updates!