The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Minnesota a $1.4 million grant to better educate women on the North Shore about the risks of eating fish with mercury contamination.
Last year, health researchers found 10 percent of 1,100 Minnesota infants born near Lake Superior tested above the EPA's safe limits for mercury. It was the first study to measure mercury levels in newborns, a group vulnerable to mercury's toxic effects on the brain.
This new grant will fund a study at health clinics in Grand Marais and Grand Portage, where doctors and nurses will counsel women of child-bearing age about the risks of mercury exposure from Lake Superior fish.
"This project will help women make choices that minimize their exposure to mercury, but maximize the health benefits of eating fish," said Susan Hedman, the Great Lakes national program manager with the EPA.
Seth Moore, director of biology and environment at Grand Portage, said the band's subsistence lifestyle includes a diet high in fish from Lake Superior.
"There's evidence that Minnesotans eat more locally caught fish. And we believe that Grand Portage band members eat more fish than the average population. Thus our concern is for the health of Native youth," he said.
The pilot project will last four years.