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Fish containing mercury found in two Arkansas lakes

The Arkansas Department of Health says eating a lot of mercury can have harmful health effects.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Natural State is home to hundreds of lakes, and many fishermen enjoy cooking what they catch. However, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) issued a warning about the dangers that are hiding in two northern lakes.

ADH said there are concerning levels of mercury at Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes near Mountain Home.

"The problem with mercury is that it takes a while for the body to eliminate it once you have eaten it," ADH Director Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said.

Dillaha said pregnant women, small children and people who frequently eat walleye fish from Bull Shoals and Norfork are at the most risk. 

"Mercury can also affect their brain and their nerves," Dillaha said. "But it can also affect their heart, their blood and the immune system can affect their digestive system and their kidneys."

According to Dillaha, there are about 20 other lakes in Arkansas with the fish consumption advisory, but it's not just a state problem. 

"Coal has mercury in its release," Dillaha said. "It gets in the atmosphere and travels the globe and gets deposited in bodies of water around the world."

Trey Reid with Arkansas Game and Fish said finding mercury in fish isn't uncommon. 

"Mercury is a naturally occurring element," Reid said. "They're sometimes built up in fish. I mean, whether that's marine fish in the ocean or freshwater fish."

Reid and Dillaha said now is not the time to panic, but they want people to be informed.

"Be mindful of the fact that some of the larger fish have a larger amount of mercury," Dillaha said. "Take that into consideration when making dietary decisions."

ADH said eating fish with mercury won't make you sick right away, but it builds up over time as more is consumed. There's a community meeting on Feb. 7 in Mountain Home to answer questions.

The meeting will be held at Donald W. Reynolds Library beginning at 5 p.m.

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