Eating fish that contain contaminants can cause these contaminants to build up in a person’s body. This type of chronic exposure can increase the risk of illness for adults and may be especially risky for children and growing fetuses because their bodies are still developing.
Depending on the type and amount of contaminants found in the fish, long-term exposure from consuming some fish can increase the risk of illness, developmental issues, or, in some cases, cancer. Click on the contaminants below to learn more about the specific health effects.
Common Contaminants in Fish
Why are some contaminants found in fish while others are not?
Not all types of environmental contaminants will accumulate in fish – it depends on many different factors. In general, however, compounds that accumulate in fish have a few things in common:
— They do not breakdown easily in the environment
— Many of them can be carried long distances by air or water away from where there were released
— Some chemicals like PCBs are fat-loving (also called lipophilic) and do not mix well with water, and this makes them more likely to move inside the bodies of animals, including fish
— They are not easily broken down, or metabolized, once they make it inside the body of an organism