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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a study that suggests eating PCB-laden fish may affect your memory.


CURWOOD: Coming up, training to fight forest fires. First, this health note from Diane Toomey.

[Music; Allison Dean "Health Note Theme" up and under]

TOOMEY: A recent study shows that eating a lot of fish contaminated with PCBs may affect learning ability and memory in adults. The research focused on a group of about 100 people, age 49 and older, who'd been eating large amounts of fish caught in Lake Michigan for a number of decades. Researchers tested them on various cognitive abilities, and then gave the same test to another group, who ate little or no Lake Michigan fish. Scientists found that a significant percentage of those who ate more than 24 pounds of this fish a year performed poorly on tests that measure memory and verbal learning. The reason for this result? After controlling for other factors, including education, age, and health, researchers found that high levels of PCBs in the blood of those who ate lots of fish, were associated with the memory difficulties. PCBs are a group of industrial chemicals that were banned in the U.S. more than two decades ago. However, they still persist in the environment, and continue to make their way up the food chain, and can accumulate in great amounts in fish found in contaminated waterways. Exposure to PCBs in utero has been shown to impair childhood memory and learning ability, but, until now, adults were thought to be less susceptible to the effects of PCB exposure. And that's this week's health note. I'm Diane Toomey.

[Music; Allison Dean "Health Note Theme" up and over]

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[Cutaway 1 Music; Louis Sclavis & The Pifarely Acoustic Quartet "Hop!"]



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