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Great Lakes Fish Consumption Advisories

Contact Information

For further information on the Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program, please contact:

Elizabeth Murphy (murphy.elizabeth@epa.gov)
Environmental Scientist
EPA Great Lakes National Program Office
(312) 353-4227 or 1-800-621-8431 x34227

Access the Data

Data produced by the GLFMSP can be obtained through the Great Lakes Environmental Database Query System or through the University of Illinois Extension website Exit EPA Disclaimer

You can also contact the program manager, Elizabeth Murphy, for information regarding the GLFMSP and/or supporting data.

Peer reviewed journal articles published using GLFMSP data can also be found on the Reports & Links page.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not issue fish consumption advice. Rather, this task falls to individual states and Tribes.

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet. They are a lean, low-calorie source of protein. Some fish people catch in the Nation's lakes, rivers, oceans, and estuaries, however, may contain chemicals that could pose health risks.

Health Impacts of Chemicals Analyzed in Great Lakes Fish

What are the health effects associated with PCBs?

The most commonly observed health effects in people exposed to large amounts of PCBs are skin conditions such as acne and rashes. Studies in exposed workers have shown changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage. PCB exposures in the general population are not likely to result in skin and liver effects. Most of the studies of health effects of PCBs in the general population examined children of mothers who were exposed to PCBs.

What are the health effects associated with DDT?

DDT affects the nervous system. People who accidentally swallowed large amounts of DDT became excitable and had tremors and seizures. These effects went away after the exposure stopped. No effects were seen in people who took small daily doses of DDT by capsule for 18 months.

A study in humans showed that women who had high amounts of a form of DDE in their breast milk were unable to breast feed their babies for as long as women who had little DDE in the breast milk. Another study in humans showed that women who had high amounts of DDE in breast milk had an increased chance of having premature babies.

What are the health effects associated with chlordane?

Chlordane affects the nervous system, the digestive system, and the liver in people and animals. Headaches, irritability, confusion, weakness, vision problems, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and jaundice have occurred in people who breathed air containing high concentrations of chlordane or accidentally swallowed small amounts of chlordane. Large amounts of chlordane taken by mouth can cause convulsions and death in people.

What are the health effects associated with dieldrin?

People who intentionally or accidentally ingested large amounts of dieldrin suffered convulsions and some died. Health effects may also occur after a longer period of exposure to smaller amounts because these chemicals build up in the body.

What are the health effects associated with mercury?

The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Methylmercury and metallic mercury vapors are more harmful than other forms of methylmercury, because more mercury in these forms reaches the brain. Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.

In March of 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency announced their joint consumer advisory on methylmercury in fish and shellfish for reducing the exposure to high levels of mercury in women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children. This advisory unified the advice from both FDA and EPA and superceedes FDA's and EPA's 2001 advisories.

What are the health effects associated with PBDEs?

There is no definite information on health effects of PBDEs in people. Rats and mice that ate food containing moderate amounts of PBDEs for a few days displayed effects on the thyroid gland. Those that ate smaller amounts for weeks or months displayed effects on the thyroid and the liver. Large differences in effects are observed between highly-brominated and less-brominated PBDEs in animal studies.

Preliminary evidence suggests that high concentrations of PBDEs may cause neurobehavioral alterations and affect the immune system in animals. In 2004, Chemtura, formerly Great Lakes Chemical Corporation and the largest producer of PBDEs in the Great Lakes Basin, voluntarily decided to cease production of two widely-used flame retardant chemicals, penta- and octa- polybrominated diphenyl ether.


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