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"Some ecosystems are more sensitive than others," said Barbara Scudder, the lead USGS scientist on the study.
All but two states -- Alaska and Wyoming -- have issued fish-consumption advisories because of mercury contamination. Some of the streams studied already had warnings.
"This is showing that the problem is much more widespread," said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stronger advisories on consumption of mercury-laden fish and controls on the sources of mercury pollution. "If you are living in an area that doesn't have a mercury advisory, you should use caution."
Earlier this year, the Obama administration said it would begin crafting a new regulations to control mercury emissions from power plants after a federal appeals court threw out plans drafted by the Bush administration and favored by industry. The Bush rule would have allowed power plants to buy and sell pollution credits, instead of requiring each plant to install equipment to reduce mercury pollution.
The EPA also has also proposed a new regulation to clamp down on emissions of mercury from cement plants.
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