July 31, 2023
State updates fish consumption guidance for two Twin Cities metro water bodies
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), is recommending that certain people should avoid eating fish caught in two water bodies in the Twin Cities metro area, due to new data showing a mixture of pollutants including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the fish.
Those water bodies are the Mississippi River from the Ford Dam in St. Paul to Hastings Dam (known as Pool 2) and Lake Rebecca near Hastings. People who should avoid eating fish from these locations include children under age 15, people who are or could become pregnant and those who are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.
Prior guidance for these water bodies recommended not eating certain types of fish due to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury (see Waterbody Specific Safe-Eating Guidelines on the Fish Consumption Guidance page). Mercury and PCBs have been detected in fish in Minnesota for decades, but the new data on the presence of many types of PFAS prompted state officials to update the guidance.
“The updated fish consumption guidance for Lake Rebecca and Pool 2 applies only to higher risk populations at this time,” MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said. “It’s important to note that with PFAS, the risk is based on long-term exposure, not the kind of short-term exposure you might have from a few meals.”
PFAS are a family of human-made chemicals that have been widely used for decades and do not break down in the environment. Over time, PFAS can build up in a person’s body. Children’s immune systems are most sensitive. Exposure to some PFAS is associated with certain types of cancer.
Huff noted fish are a source of low-fat protein, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may promote heart and overall health. While there are health benefits to eating fish, there can be risks associated with eating certain amounts of fish from certain lakes and waterways. Minnesota’s fish consumption guidance helps people lower their exposure to contaminants in fish while still getting the health benefits of eating fish.
“Even with the new recommendations, fishing can still be enjoyed at Lake Rebecca and Pool 2 on a catch-and-release basis,” said DNR Regional Fisheries Manager Brian Nerbonne. “Here in the land of 10,000 lakes, there are plenty of places to fish, so people who do want to eat the fish they catch can find alternative water bodies. Our Fishing in the Neighborhood guide lists opportunities in the surrounding area where people can fish close to where they live.”
A few alternative places to fish in the metro area include the Lower St. Croix River (south of Stillwater), Lake Nokomis, Rogers Lake, Bald Eagle Lake and White Bear Lake.
In 2023 the Minnesota Legislature passed and Governor Tim Walz signed a comprehensive ban on PFAS in products Minnesotans use. It bans all non-essential use of PFAS and requires manufacturers selling products in Minnesota to disclose if PFAS are present.
MDH, DNR and MPCA work together on efforts to monitor water quality and chemicals in fish tissues statewide and update fish consumption and other guidance as new data becomes available. The state’s goal is to provide Minnesotans with the information they need to make informed choices for the health and safety of their family.