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Household chemicals could be harming Fraser River's sockeye

 Fraser River sockeye could be getting sick or even dying because of a daily cocktail of household chemicals entering the watershed, a judicial inquiry has heard.

Aquatic toxicology expert Peter Ross testified Tuesday that many of the 23,000 chemicals listed on the federal government's domestic-substances list may not immediately kill fish but could predispose them to future health problems.

``They might reduce their growth, confuse them, affect their ability to smell, to find their home stream, reduce their immune system, make them vulnerable to disease, outbreaks of disease, or affect their energetics, in other words, their ability to feed and grow,'' Ross said.

He said the true impact of contaminants may become apparent only when salmon get viruses, encounter food-supply shortages, experience climate change or if their habitat is destroyed.

As a result, researchers should be studying how contaminants are affecting salmon in the ``real world,'' Ross said.

But he noted that's currently not happening.

The inquiry is examining the decline of the sockeye salmon population in the Fraser River.

It has heard that restructuring of the Fisheries Department between 2004 and 2006 hampered fish habitat protection when some duties were shifted to Environment Canada.

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