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Fish Contaminant

Eating fish is an important part of a healthy diet, providing a low-calorie source of healthful proteins and fats. Most fish are safe to eat, but some can accumulate contaminants that may pose health risks if consumed too frequently. Fish also serve as key indicators for determining surface water quality. The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP) regularly monitors contaminant levels in sport fish through a cooperative effort between the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Public Health, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Fish samples are collected from 40-50 stream, river, and inland lake stations, and from several Lake Michigan open water/harbor stations each year. The FCMP’s goal is to provide approximately 250 samples to the Illinois EPA laboratory for analysis of Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), and Methylmercury. The analytical results are then compared to meal frequency criteria for each chemical listed in Table 1 below, to determine the need for issuing, modifying, or canceling a consumption advisory. Results are also used to determine the need for follow up sampling at a particular site.

Table 1 lists the Health Protection Values (HPVs), Target Population and Effect, Meal Frequency, and Criteria Levels for each chemical. HPVs are toxicological values, similar to Reference Doses (RfDs), which are intended to protect a consumer from adverse effects if exposed over a lifetime. The Target Population and Effect column lists the individual (sensitive/non-sensitive) and organ or system for which the HPV is intended to protect. Meal Frequencies and Criteria Levels are determined based on the average body weight of an adult human and the amount of fish consumed annually.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluoroundecanoic Acid (PFUnA) in the table above are both members of the broader group of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).


Advisory information for specific water bodies is available from the Department of Public Health web site.