Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

MAILING ADDRESS: 1120 SW 5th Ave, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

What are the health risks?

Graphic of pregnant mother, nursing mother with baby and toddler

What is harmful about fish from the Columbia Slough?

Fish from the Columbia Slough may contain contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides that can harm your health. This applies to "resident" fish, or fish who spend their whole lives in the slough. Contaminated fish do not look or act sick.

How could eating the slough's resident fish harm my health?

Even though the concentrations of PCBs and pesticides in slough fish are fairly low, they still pose a health risk because the chemicals may:

  • Damage a child's brain and nervous system development
  • Harm reproductive and immune systems
  • Increase the risk of cancer

Who is most at risk?

  • Women who are or may become pregnant. Developing babies can be exposed to the chemicals before they are born.
  • Nursing mothers. Their infants can be exposed to the chemicals through breast milk.
  • Children under the age of 6.
  • People who eat a lot of fish from the Slough.

People in these groups should avoid eating resident fish from the Columbia Slough and instead should eat migratory fish like salmon and steelhead.

Should my children and I eat any fish?

Yes. Fish is nutritious and beneficial to your health. The benefits of fish are greater than the risk when you follow good preparation and cooking techniques.

Fish is low in saturated fat and a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is good for your heart, brain, and overall health. Unfortunately, contaminants are in most foods, so switching from fish to other meats or poultry will not eliminate your exposure to contaminants.

See the Washington State Department of Ecology’s advice on the health benefits of eating fish and guidance for women and children for more information.

Should I eat fish when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Yes. You can eat fish during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding. However, you should avoid eating resident fish from the slough and other fish with high mercury levels. See the Washington State Department of Ecology’s advice for women and children for more information.

Which fish should I eat more?

Eat fish like salmon and steelhead. These fish spend part of their lives in the ocean and have lower amounts of contaminants.

Are fish from the stores safe?

Fish sold at stores are regulated differently from fish caught in the slough. Some fish from the stores may have high mercury levels. Women who are or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children should limit their consumption of fish species that have higher mercury levels. Choosing smaller fish over larger fish can also reduce your exposure to contaminants. See the Oregon Health Authority's recommendations for safer fish to eat.


Traducción e Interpretación  |  Biên Dịch và Thông Dịch  |  अनुवादन तथा व्याख्या  |  口笔译服务  |  Устный и письменный перевод  |  Turjumaad iyo Fasiraad  |  Письмовий і усний переклад  |  Traducere și interpretariat  |   Chiaku me Awewen Kapas  |  Translation and Interpretation: 503-823-7740