Press Release

February 2, 2007


2007 Sports Fish Consumption Advisory  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Public Health today announced the 2007 consumption advisories for sport fish caught in Illinois waters follow the same guidelines as 2006.

“Fish collected and tested for this year’s advisory did not warrant the addition or deletion of any lakes or streams in Illinois,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “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 where to fish, the types of fish to eat, and how to prepare fish for cooking to reduce possible contaminants. Contaminants in fish may make some fish unsafe to eat except in limited quantities, particularly for women of childbearing age and young children.”

While there is no known immediate health threat from eating contaminated fish from any body of water in Illinois, there are concerns about the effects of long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides and chemicals, such as chlordane, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and methylmercury, found in fish listed on the advisories. Methylmercury, which results from mercury emitted primarily by coal-burning power plants, has been found to cause reproductive damage and have adverse effects on the central nervous system, including developmental delays.

Because eating fish with high mercury levels can pose serious health risks, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proposed significant reductions in mercury emissions from Illinois' coal-fired power plants. Illinois now requires power plants in Illinois to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent by June 30, 2009, and prohibits power plants from purchasing allowances or trading emissions credits with other companies or states - practices that can lead to toxic "hot-spots" around individual plants. In addition, Gov. Blagojevich's administration has negotiated agreements with Illinois' three major power companies to reduce additional pollutants, in addition to the mercury reductions. The proposal was approved by the Illinois Pollution Control Board and the Joint Committee on Administrative rules, and has been submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its approval. Illinois' requirements are significantly stronger than federal proposals. The U.S. EPA issued the Clean Air Mercury Rule on March 10, 2005, which required coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions by 47 percent by 2010, and 79 percent by 2018.

The advisories are based primarily on protecting sensitive populations, including women of childbearing age, pregnant women, fetuses, nursing mothers and children younger than 15 years of age. They may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and men older than 15.

The statewide mercury advisory cautions sensitive populations to eat no more than one meal per week of predator fish, which pose a greater risk because they feed on other fish and accumulate higher amounts of methylmercury. Predator fish include all species of black bass, (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted), striped bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, flathead catfish, muskellunge, northern pike, saugeye, sauger, and walleye.

Women beyond childbearing age and males older than 15 years of age can eat as many meals of predator fish as they please, with the exception of fish caught from the 15 bodies of water that are on the special mercury advisory, which have more restrictive meal advice because of high levels of methylmercury. These include Arrowhead Lake, Campus Lake at Southern Illinois University, Cedar Lake, Devil's Kitchen Lake, Kinkaid Lake, Lake Bracken, Lake in the Hills, Little Grassy Lake, Little Wabash River and Tributaries, Marquette Park Lagoon, Midlothian Reservoir, Monee Reservoir, Ohio River, Rock River (from Rockford to Milan Steel Dam), and Wabash River.

Some mercury occurs naturally in the environment and more can be released into the air through industrial pollution. When it falls into surface water, bacteria in the water cause chemical changes that transform the mercury into methylmercury, which is then taken up by fish as they feed on aquatic organisms.

For fish that may contain PCBs and chlordane, the advisory provides eating advice in five categories – unlimited consumption, no more than one meal per week, no more than one meal per month, no more than six meals per year and do not eat.

There are several ways people can reduce exposure to contaminants, including:

  • varying the type and source of sport fish consumed (younger, smaller fish and leaner species such as walleye and panfish are safer to eat than fatty species such as carp and catfish)

  • preparing and cooking fish in ways that reduce the amount of contaminants can limit exposure to harmful substances that may be found in fish.

There are several ways to reduce any PCBs and chlordane present in edible portions of fish:

  • Before cooking, remove the skin from the filet and cut away any fatty tissue from the belly and dorsal areas.

  • Broil, bake or grill in a way that allows fat to drip away.

  • Discard fat drippings or broth from broiled or poached fish. Do not use in other dishes.

These precautions will not reduce the amount of methylmercury in fish. Mercury is found throughout a fish's muscle tissue (the edible part of the fish) rather than in the fat and skin. Therefore, the only way to reduce mercury intake is to reduce the amount of contaminated fish eaten.

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program screens fish samples from about 40 bodies of water per year for contamination from 13 banned pesticides and industrial chemicals. The program is a joint effort of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Public Health.

The fish are collected by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and tested by IEPA. The Illinois Department of Public Health bases its consumption advisories on the IEPA test results. This year's advisories are included in the Illinois 2007 Fishing Information Guide, which is available from IDNR and from businesses that sell state fishing licenses.

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
Questions or Comments