Considering that in addition to all the motorcycles and competitors, there are about 45 equipment trucks—one of which was run off a cliff during last year's race and landed in a treetop—and at least 15 other support vehicles, it's remarkable that the Tour doesn't turn into a demolition derby.
FISH OR FOUL?
A report released last week by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) offers disturbing news about the toxicity of fish in Lake Michigan. It says that eating only one large lake trout from the lake puts a person in a cancer-risk category deemed "unacceptable" by the Environmental Protection Agency. A person who eats as few as 11 of the trout in a lifetime faces a 1-in-10,000 risk of cancer, according to the report. That is, out of 10,000 people who eat that many fish, one person who wouldn't otherwise get cancer would contract the disease.
The report also says that eight meals of Lake Michigan brown trout in a lifetime place a person in the unacceptable cancer-risk category. And because the eating of fish containing toxins increases the risk of birth defects, the NWF recommends that women of childbearing age stay away from all six species studied in its report—lake and brown trout, chinook and coho salmon, yellow perch and walleye.
The report drew criticism from Midwestern health officials and people involved with Lake Michigan's $4.8-billion-a-year sport-fishing business. "All it's going to do is confuse the public on an already complex issue," says Lee Liebenstein, a toxic-substance specialist in Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources. The confusion comes because Wisconsin. Michigan, Illinois and Indiana have issued a less stringent Lake Michigan fish advisory. For instance, it warns women of child-bearing age only against eating large trout or large salmon.
Curiously, the states and the NWF used the same toxicity data to arrive at different conclusions. Why the difference? The states' warnings are based upon U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, which allow higher levels of contamination; the FDA set these looser regulations to avoid unreasonably harming the commercial fishing industry. The NWF, by contrast, applied stricter EPA standards. As Mark Van Putten, who oversaw the NWF's two-year study at the Great Lakes Natural Resources Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., puts it, "These really give an idea if it's wise to eat a fish."
The NWF also went beyond the usual practice of analyzing one poison at a time. It assessed how four persistent toxins found in Lake Michigan—PCBs, DDT, dieldrin and chlordane—could work together to make a fish dangerous to eat, even when any one of them might not be present in a concentration high enough to warrant a warning. A sobering note: Although the report analyzed only four toxins, more than 100 poisonous chemicals are present in Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan fishermen—and people who might consume their catch—will have to decide for themselves whether to follow the states' advisory or the NWF's. Either way, as NWF president Jay Hair says, "The long-term solution is not to stop fishing but to stop the pollution."
A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY
Staff writer Peter King filed this report after accompanying former Dallas Cowboy general manager Tex Schramm on a tour of possible sites for the NFL's new spring league: