There are 43 “Areas of Concern” in the Great Lakes region where these persistent, toxic, and bioaccumulative chemicals have built up at the bottom of rivers and harbors, creating lasting toxic hotspots. Most of these sites are the result of past contamination. But some areas continue to be polluted by discharges from chemical plants, refineries, steel mills, and other heavy industry. These toxic hotspots leach pollution into the lakes, contributing to the ongoing contamination of Great Lakes fish. They also make it more difficult and expensive to dredge and deepen Great Lakes harbors and shipping channels, costing ports, shippers, and taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
In addition, toxic air pollution is a tremendous source of pollution to the Great Lakes. Coal-fired power plants, incinerators and other sources release persistent air pollutants like mercury, which is a potent neurotoxin, and dioxin, which is the most potent carcinogen known to scientists. These chemicals are deposited into the lakes by the rain and the wind, where they further contaminate Great Lakes fish.
All of the Great Lakes and their tributaries have fish consumption advisories for mercury. Many Great Lakes fish are under consumption advisories for PCBs and other chemicals as well. Instead of being a healthy source of food, too many Great Lakes fish further endanger people already at risk. The EPA estimates that over 600,000 babies are born each year that are at risk from mercury pollution. In fact, 1 in 6 women of childbearing age already have enough mercury in their bodies to put their children at risk.