Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, L.E.A.D. Agency, and OU Health Sciences Center received a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study mercury levels in fish from the Grand Lake watershed and mercury exposure in people who regularly eat fish from the watershed.

Methylmercury, the form of mercury commonly found in fish, is a neurotoxin that has been shown to affect the cognitive development of children. Additional studies have also suggested that methylmercury is linked to heart disease in adult men.

The Grand Lake watershed is a popular fishing destination for people who fish recreationally as well as for subsistence fishers. The watershed includes the Neosho, Spring and Elk Rivers, as well as other feeder creeks and streams. Preliminary sampling of several predator species by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality did not find high levels of mercury in Grand Lake fish. This research study will be more comprehensive in scope and will include all types of fish commonly eaten by the areaís residents. Researchers will also evaluate whether there are differences in mercury levels in fish caught from different parts of the watershed.

The close proximity of the lake to potential sources of mercury has made some residents concerned about mercury in the lake. Coal-fired power plants are one of the major sources of mercury related to human activities.

In addition to testing fish samples, researchers will also measure mercury levels in hair samples from people who regularly eat fish caught from the watershed. Hair mercury levels are an indicator of how much mercury is in a personís diet and may indicate unsafe levels of mercury exposure. The research team is especially interested in understanding the consumption habits and mercury exposure among people who eat lots of locally caught fish.

Participants will also complete surveys about their fish consumption, which will provide a sense of whether people who rely on Grand Lake as a source of fish tend to eat more fish than residents in other parts of the state and country.

It is hoped that American Indian tribes and Hispanic and Micronesian populations who are consuming local fish will also choose to join the study.

Rebecca Jim, executive director of L.E.A.D. Agency, stressed that we will be able to analyze individual fish that are brought in as samples, and provide results to the fisherman. Sample bags will be available at each of the up-coming meetings.

Research team members will be at the following locations in July to discuss the research, enroll participants and continue follow-up with current participants.

Meeting Date and Time: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 2-4 p.m.

Location: LEAD Agency, 223 A SE, Miami, OK

Meeting Date and Time: Thursday, July 21, 2011, 4-6 p.m.

Location: LEAD Agency, 223 A SE, Miami, OK

Meeting Date and Time: Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Location: Grove Higher Education Center, 1201 NEO Loop

(near the Grove Public Library)

Meeting Date and Time: Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 2-4 p.m.

Location: Langley City Hall, 324 W Osage Ave.

(1 mi. from stoplight in Blue Building on the right)

Meeting Date and Time: Thursday, July 28, 2011, 4-6 p.m.

Location: LEAD Agency, 223 A SE, Miami, OK

Meeting Date and Time: Thursday, August 4, 2011, 5-6:45 p.m.

Location: Vinita Public Library, 215 W. Illinois Ave.

For additional information about this project or to learn more about becoming a study participant, email ehatley@neok.com or call the LEAD Agency office at (918) 542-9399.