Toxic Contaminants in the Lake

Toxic chemicals and garbage are two other problems of heavily populated areas around the Great Lakes: toxins such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been found in fish and sediment in the lake and circulate through the ecosystem. When contaminated fish are consumed, the toxins enter the human body and can lead to health problems. Toxins in the water can be absorbed through human skin upon contact. Other toxins which have more recently been identified in Lake Erie are pharmaceuticals, surfectants and detergents, and flame retardants. “Atmospheric deposition of toxic chemicals was recognized by measurements of PCBs in precipitation after these chemicals were discovered in Great Lakes fish in 1971. Long-range transportation of substances was confirmed by the PCBs and toxaphene discovered in fish from a lake on Isle Royale, a remote island in Lake Superior isolated from any known direct sources of the pollutants.” (


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