Editorial Erred

On June 15, I spoke with the Los Angeles Times regarding the recently released San Diego Bay Health Risk Study, which was conducted by my department. The resulting editorial ("Fishing for Answers in Tainted Bay," June 17) contains an incorrect attribution to the health department regarding public information.

It says, "The health services department intends to advertise its warnings in ethnic newspapers, but not until after the state has reviewed the findings." The editorial then concludes that there "is no reason (for the health department) to delay warnings to local fish consumers."

What the editorial should have said is that the county will not make a decision to post formal warnings until after the state has reviewed the information.

We are, however, moving quickly to publicize, in local and ethnic newspapers, applicable information to bay fishermen--especially Asians and Filipinos, who eat more of the bay fish than other ethnic groups.

The department will also issue public-service announcements advising pregnant and breast-feeding women not to eat bay fish, and cautioning daily consumers of bay fish not to eat it every day. And finally, specific health information will be provided to county health centers and community clinics, and will be included in a bulletin issued to all area physicians enabling them to properly inform patients on the issue.

The editorial also indicated that, "regrettably, the fish received only a limited screening for benzene, toluene and several other chemicals." While this is true, it is misleading.

The study's methods called for an initial, limited screening to determine if further testing of some chemicals was necessary. The screening confirmed the need for further testing of some chemicals, and it was performed.

It also demonstrated no need for any further testing of other chemicals, including benzene and toluene, because they were not found in the bay's fish at levels that would provide a potential health risk if consumed. Furthermore, the study provided only for the screening of dioxins and radionuclides. Since they were found in bay fish, further testing has been recommended. J. WILLIAM COX


San Diego County

Department of Health Services

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