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GLIN==> Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant News: ?Fish School? Informs Families of Health Risks and Benefits

For Immediate Release
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant News

Diana Dummitt (217) 333-5198; ddummitt@express.cites.uiuc.edu
Leslie Dorworth (219) 989-2726; dorworth@calumet.purdue.edu
Robin Goettel (217) 333-9448; goettel@uiuc.edu

February 14, 2005
?Fish School? Informs Families of Health Risks and Benefits
URBANA--Fish are chock full of nutrients, but they are often contaminated with pollutants that can have serious health effects, particularly on growing babies and children. It can be difficult to know what to do with this good and bad news--if you are already aware of it. Due to language, cultural or other barriers, many who depend on ?catching their dinners? may not be in the information loop.
A new education program, Fish School: Taking Stock of Risks and Benefits, will involve scientists, nutritional experts, extension educators, teachers and students who will reach out to southern Lake Michigan communities at school fairs and local festivals to raise awareness about the risks, as well as the benefits of eating fish in those who need it the most--women in their child-bearing years and families who fish for their food.
?The Calumet River is one of the most polluted rivers in the country, yet many immigrants regularly fish along its banks as they did in their countries of origin,? said Diana Dummit, Illinois Science Teachers Association?s former executive director who now is the associate director of development in the University of Illinois, College of Medicine.
?Even those who don?t fish can be at risk,? said Leslie Dorworth, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant water quality specialist. ?Due to limited resources, some people rely on canned tuna to provide a significant portion of their diet. On the other hand, others believe that lakes and rivers are unclean and simply stop eating fish. But fish are an important part of a healthy diet.?
To help strike a balance, the Illinois Science Teachers Association and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) are working together with other agencies and universities to foster creative ways for people to learn from each other. ?Brochures can have all the right information, but the reality may not sink in,? said Dummitt.
With funding from U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, Fish School begins on May 21 with a one-day workshop for 20 middle and high school science, health, and food and nutrition teachers in the region to learn the latest research data about fish consumption concerns directly from scientists and to work with University of Illinois Extension educators to develop teaching programs and plan health expos. Teachers interested in participating in this workshop can find more information on the IISG Web site at www.iisgcp.org/edk-12/FishSchool/index.htm.
These teachers will return to their classrooms to inspire students to inform their families, their schools, and their communities about the risks and benefits of eating fish. ?Students will design posters, exhibits or other creative projects that will be on display at Fiesta Del Sol, the Wolf Lake Wetlands, Wind, and Water Festival and other community events,? said Robin Goettel, IISG education specialist.
?Students are our future consumers and decision-makers. It?s important that they know how to eat fish wisely,? added Goettel. ?They also provide a unique way to connect with their communities by providing new information on benefits and risks.?
IISG and Extension will also use more traditional means to reach out to underserved populations with this critical information. They are developing workshops to explain the latest fish consumption advisory information directly to local families. The workshops will also be available in Spanish, Polish and Chinese.
Much of the information presented in this outreach program as well as in the Fish School effort is derived from the brochure, Contaminants in Fish and Seafood: A Guide to Safe Consumption, available in two versions, with guidelines specific to Illinois and Indiana. For a copy, contact Susan White at (217) 333-9441 or email white2@uiuc.edu.
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of more than 30 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs.  Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U. S. Department of Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana.


Irene Miles
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
376 NSRC
1101 W. Peabody Dr.
Urbana, Il 61801
(217) 333-8055
FAX (217) 333-8046