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Illinois fish consumption advisory: Some thoughts or advice

An aerating station on the Cal system.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Listen, I think the Illinois Sport Fishing Consumption Advisory is important stuff. I also think it scares the hell out of people unnecessarily and in some ways does very little to serve the public good.

It just irks me.

In part because every year, readers of the advisories gloss over or miss what the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health iusually says, usually something similar to what Dr. Nirav D. Shah said again this year in the second paragraph of the announcement.

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help anglers and their families decide the types of fish to eat, how frequently, and how to prepare fish for cooking to reduce possible contaminants,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.

I would also highlight the graph immediately following Shah’s comments:

There is no known immediate health hazard from eating contaminated fish from any body of water in Illinois. The main concern for regularly eating fish listed on the advisories is the effect of long-term exposure to low levels of pesticides and chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, chlordane, and methylmercury.

Those are the facts.

Click here for the general map of statewide advisories.

Click here to read the advisories for Lake Michigan fish. Click here to read the advisories for the Cal system. Click here for advisories for the Chicago River. Click here for the Chain O’Lakes.

Here is the announcement from the Illinois Department of Public Health:

Updated Illinois Sport Fish Consumption Advisory

8th Feb, 2017

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced an updated consumption advisory for sport fish caught in Illinois waters. These changes are the result of continued sampling by the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program and do not suggest that Illinois fish are becoming more or less contaminated.

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help anglers and their families decide the types of fish to eat, how frequently, and how to prepare fish for cooking to reduce possible contaminants,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.

There is no known immediate health hazard from eating contaminated fish from any body of water in Illinois. The main concern for regularly eating fish listed on the advisories is the effect of long-term exposure to low levels of pesticides and chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, chlordane, and methylmercury.

The program is a joint effort of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the departments of Natural Resources and Public Health. The fish are collected by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and tested by IEPA. IDPH issues fish consumption advisories based on the IEPA test results. The updated advisory and detailed information can be found on the IDPH website: http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/toxicology/fish-advisories/map.