Posted by: BPSOS | May 19, 2009

Tin Tức – News: BPSOS-OC Nets Award for Educating Public on Toxin-Laced Fish

croakerStudies show toxins are accumulating in white croaker (right), a fish caught off the coast of Orange County and Los Angeles.

May 19, 2009: The connection between “boat people” and fishing is not the one you’d expect, and for some very good reasons having to do with Vietnamese Americans’ health.

Boat People SOS (BPSOS) has taken a close look at how food affects the health of the Vietnamese-American community. Great concerns have arisen about the high levels of DDT and PCBs in certain fish along the West Coast, where tens of thousands of Vietnamese live, work, dine, and often spend their leisure time fishing.

Of particular concern are white croaker and other high-risk fish found along the coast of Los Angeles and Orange County. They pose a hazard to the health of the Vietnamese-American community, and young people in particular.

Vietnamese-American families count fish as an integral part of their diet. Fish is prepared in keeping with Vietnamese culinary traditions. This means that the entire fish, including the head, skin, guts, and bones, are prepared. Unfortunately, these are areas of the fish’s body in which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found harmful concentrations of chemicals.

What does this mean for Vietnamese-American families? According to an analysis conducted by Stephen Groner Associates, Inc. in 2007, “Vietnamese women report the second highest frequency of consuming fish caught off the coasts of Los Angeles and Orange County.” Moreover, it appears likely that Vietnamese children are particularly vulnerable to high exposure to DDT and PCB contaminates. According to studies conducted by the EPA, infants, and young children are most affected by DDT and PCBs because they are in still in their developmental stages.

To deal with this potentially devastating health hazard, BPSOS-OC has worked collaboratively on the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC). Through the FCEC’s multilingual Community Outreach Program, BPSOS has targeted the Vietnamese-American community throughout Orange County.

Working with the FCEC, BPSOS has educated the target population on the risks of consuming DDT- and PCB-contaminated white croaker and other high-risk fish, promoted healthy fish-eating behaviors, and worked to reduce risk posed by contaminated fish consumption. These efforts have targeted providing the culturally and linguistically appropriate direct outreach that is necessary to preserve the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members of the Vietnamese-American community: children and their families.

Since September 2008, BPSOS has directly reached out to over 300 Vietnamese community members to raise awareness of the contaminated fish of the Palos Verdes Shelf along the coast of Orange County and Los Angeles. Through this outreach, the Orange County branch of BPSOS has also worked to promote healthier approaches to consuming fish. To complement monthly educational workshops and health clinic visits, BPSOS-Orange County has collected survey data for assessment.

The multilingual aspect of this work has been particularly important. BPSOS’ target population faces significant barriers to service and information. In a recent survey conducted by BPSOS, only 12 percent of respondents considered themselves to be fluent in English, while 29 percent reported speaking no English at all. This limited English proficiency has left much of BPSOS’ target population without access to mainstream English-language services. BPSOS’ outreach has leaped over this language barrier, offering community members the knowledge and tools to reduce the health risks they face from eating contaminated fish.

Recognizing these ongoing efforts, in March the EPA announced that BPSOS was among several FCEC-Community Outreach Program partners to receive the Citizens Excellence in Community Involvement Award. With that accomplishment under its belt, BPSOS-Orange County is looking forward to continuing the collaboration with the FCEC and local leaders, all with a view toward advancing community health.

“We’re very proud to be working with the FCEC, and grateful that we can share this EPA award with our community partners,” said Tiffany Nguyen, branch manager of BPSOS-Orange County. “We look forward to more successful health outreach in the Vietnamese-American community and beyond.”


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