The swap-a-fish program that traded tilapia for seafood contaminated by Agent Orange

Passaic River, Newark, NJ, Riverfront Park

REINA GATTUSO / ATLAS OBSCURA – As it glints in the afternoon sunlight, Newark, New Jersey’s Passaic River looks peaceful. But a plaque along the boardwalk has a warning for visitors. “The river remains full of life,” it reads. “Try to spot these creatures, but until the pollution is removed from the river, be careful NEVER to catch or eat any of them.”

There’s been an advisory against eating lower Passaic fish since 1983, when the EPA found they were contaminated with dioxin—chemical waste from local factories, including one that produced Agent Orange, an herbicide the U.S. military used to devastating effect in the Vietnam War. Despite health risks ranging from cancer to developmental issues, people still catch and eat fish from the lower Passaic River …

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