photo of a crab

Reducing Toxic Chemicals in Fish, Sediments and Water


Washington’s marine and fresh waters are home to rich stocks of fish and shellfish. Protecting the health of these resources is important for the well-being of the state’s environment, economy and people.

Reducing exposure to toxics

Toxic chemicals can cause harmful effects to ecosystems and people, depending on their strength. Some toxic chemicals can pose an immediate health threat to aquatic life. Others can gradually build up in the environment and enter our bodies, increasing the risk of certain effects and disease. We have new research about how much fish and shellfish Washington residents eat. It’s good for people to eat fish and shellfish, because fish and shellfish are important parts of a healthy diet.

Illustration: How toxics get into fish, sediments and waterWashington has made significant progress to reduce toxic chemicals. It has dramatically reduced mercury pollution, and is phasing out persistent chemicals that build up in the food chain, such as flame retardants. Washington has taken steps to reduce and phase out the use of copper brake pads, lead wheel weights, copper boat paints and chemicals in children’s products. Washington continues to focus on reducing toxics to help ensure protection of the state’s healthy aquatic systems and resources.

Washington’s people and economy need healthy fish and shellfish

The Department of Ecology is currently conducting an inclusive public involvement process to develop new surface water quality standards for toxics. The toxics standards that protect human health are based on a number of factors, including how much fish Washingtonians eat. The new standards will be the basis for allowable water pollution limits set to comply with the Clean Water Act and the state’s Water Pollution Control law (RCW 90-48).

Importantly, Ecology plans to create implementation tools to help regulated dischargers and other entities work effectively toward meeting permit limits and controlling sources of pollutants.

As Washington moves forward with its water quality standards rule making, it welcomes — and needs — involvement by many, including tribal nations, industries, municipalities, and citizens. Learn about how you can get involved.

What is the Policy Forum?

The Policy Forum is a facilitated public discussion of the policy and technical issues associated with human health criteria. The goal is to involve key parties, other interests and the public as Ecology addresses the complex science and public policy issues around adopting new human health-based water quality standards and implementation tools.

Read more about the Policy Forum


How toxics get into fish, sediments and water


What people are saying

What you can do

Contact us


Ecology’s Response to Comments document on the Draft Fish Consumption Rates Technical Support Document, Volume 1. (See all comments)


Fish Consumption Rates Technical Support Document, Version 2.0
(PDF, 2MB)


Fish, Wildlife and Washington’s Economy
(PDF, Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife)


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