Eating fish can be a delicious, low cost, and nutritious meal. But eating certain fish can also be harmful because they may contain mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Effects of mercury on your health
All fish contain some mercury. It accumulates in all parts of the fish, including the part you eat.
Mercury affects the nervous system. It can damage a child’s brain as it develops, and it can affect a child’s behavior and ability to learn.
In adults, mercury can affect coordination, vision, hearing, and speech. It may increase rates of heart disease in men.
You can get rid of mercury in your body over several weeks. Spacing your meals out over time helps reduce the amount of mercury in your body.
Effect of PCBs on your health
Smaller and younger fish generally have less PCBs. They accumulate in the fat. Carp and catfish, which are fatty fish, may have higher PCB levels.
You can reduce the number of PCBs in fish by skinning the fish, trimming off fatty parts, and cooking it to allow fat to drip away (like grilling or broiling).
Pregnant people who eat a lot of fish with PCBs may have babies with lower birth weight. Their babies may have physical and learning development delays. PCBs can affect your ability to reproduce, affect your immune system, and may cause cancer.
PCBs get stored in your body fat for many years. Every time you eat fish with PCBs the total amount in your body increases.
Effects of PFAS on your health
Panfish (white bass, bluegill, and crappie) tend to have the highest PFAS levels.
PFAS build up in fish, but there is no pattern where it accumulates.
PFAS can stay in your body for years. The more fish you eat with PFAS, the higher your chances of health effects.
PFAS can cause development problems in children. They can increase your risk of cancer, harm to your immune and reproductive systems, high cholesterol, changes to the way your hormones and thyroid hormones work.
We do not know any ways of preparing or cooking fish that reduces your exposure to PFAS.
Follow safe fish-eating guidelines
Follow these guidelines to reduce your exposure to mercury, PCBs, and PFAS in fish:
Health Department Office Location
2nd Floor, 300 4th St. N.
La Crosse, WI 54601
Main Business Phone: 608-785-9872
Email: [email protected]
In a public health emergency call 911
WI Relay Service and Interpretation Services Available
Office Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday-Friday; some service hours may vary