Pathologic impacts of contaminants in freshwater fish of Cook County IL

Sierra M. Imanse, Chris L. Anchor, Gretchen C. Anchor, Jennifer A. Landolfi, Michael J. Kinsel, Jeffrey M. Levengood, Martha A. Delaney, Karen A. Terio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mercury (Hg) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are widespread environmental toxicants in urban environments with negative impacts to fish health. The present study evaluated the potential association between muscle tissue contaminant (total Hg and total PCB) concentrations and indicators of health in benthic and predatory fish collected from four Forest Preserves of Cook County lakes in the Chicago metropolitan area. Common carp (carp; Cyprinus carpio) and largemouth bass (LMB; Micropterus salmoides) were sampled three times a year (spring, summer, fall) during 2019 and 2020. Water quality analyses (temperature, color, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, total alkalinity, pH, chloride, nitrate, phosphate, ammonium, and pH) were performed concurrently with fish collections. Tissue (skin-on fillet) contaminant concentrations were compared between lake types and fish species and assessed for any relationship with fish morphometric data and pathologic lesions. Main health indicator endpoints included muscle lipid content, parasite burden, and pathologic lesions. Mean total PCB concentrations were greater in carp (203.1 ± 152 µg/kg, wet weight), and mean Hg concentrations were greater in LMB (0.11 ± 0.1 mg/kg, wet weight). In most fish, concentrations of both toxicants surpassed the EPA's lowest threshold to restrict fish consumption for sensitive cohorts (0.029 mg/kg for Hg and 1.5 µg/kg for PCBs). In both species, Hg positively correlated with splenic pigmented macrophage aggregate area (P < 0.001). In carp, Hg also positively correlated with hepatocellular pigmentation (P < 0.01). Mercury correlated with standard length in both species (LMB: P < 0.001, carp: P = 0.95), but polychlorinated biphenyls only correlated with standard length in carp (P < 0.001). No association was found between intraspecific contaminant concentrations and parasite burden, year, or lake type, though differences were noted among individual lakes. The contaminant burden appeared well-tolerated with only mild Hg-associated and no appreciable PCB-associated lesions. However, possible effects on reproduction or behavior were not fully assessed, and future studies are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106043
JournalAquatic Toxicology
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Cook County
  • Fish
  • Lake
  • Mercury
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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