Health of wild fish exposed to contaminants of emerging concern in freshwater ecosystems utilized by a Minnesota Tribal community

Jessica R. Deere, Mark D. Jankowski, Alexander Primus, Nicholas B.D. Phelps, Mark Ferrey, Joanna Borucinska, Yvette Chenaux-Ibrahim, Edmund J. Isaac, Randall S. Singer, Dominic A. Travis, Seth Moore, Tiffany M. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fish serve as indicators of exposure to contaminants of emerging concern (CECs)—chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, hormones, and personal care products—which are often designed to impact vertebrates. To investigate fish health and CECs in situ, we evaluated the health of wild fish exposed to CECs in waterbodies across northeastern Minnesota with varying anthropogenic pressures and CEC exposures: waterbodies with no human development along their shorelines, those with development, and those directly receiving treated wastewater effluent. Then, we compared three approaches to evaluate the health of fish exposed to CECs in their natural environment: a refined fish health assessment index, a histopathological index, and high-throughput (ToxCast) in vitro assays. Lastly, we mapped adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) associated with identified ToxCast assays to determine potential impacts across levels of biological organization within the aquatic system. These approaches were applied to subsistence fish collected from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and 1854 Ceded Territory in 2017 and 2019. Overall, 24 CECs were detected in fish tissues, with all but one of the sites having at least one detection. The combined implementation of these tools revealed that subsistence fish exposed to CECs had histological and macroscopic tissue and organ abnormalities, although a direct causal link could not be established. The health of fish in undeveloped sites was as poor, or sometimes poorer, than fish in developed and wastewater effluent-impacted sites based on gross and histologic tissue lesions. Adverse outcome pathways revealed potential hazardous pathways of individual CECs to fish. A better understanding of how the health of wild fish harvested for consumption is affected by CECs may help prioritize risk management research efforts and can ultimately be used to guide fishery management and public health decisions. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2023;00:1–18.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIntegrated environmental assessment and management
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors appreciate the Grand Portage Reservation Council and Tony Swader for their continued support of this ongoing research. The authors thank Steven Corsi and Laura DeCicco for guidance and assistance on ToxCast and . Funding support comes from University of Minnesota (UMN) College of Veterinary Medicine's Population Systems Signature Program, UMN Agriculture Experiment Station Research Funds (MIN‐62‐061), UMN MnDRIVE Global Food Ventures, UMN Informatics Institute MnDRIVE, the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative‐Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (M.L. 2017, Chp. 96, Sec. 2, Subd. 04g). This work is not a product of the US Government or the US Environmental Protection Agency. The views expressed are those of the author only and do not necessarily represent those of the US Government or the USEPA. toxEval

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC).


  • Adverse outcome pathways
  • Chemicals of emerging concern
  • Fish health
  • Indigenous peoples
  • ToxCast

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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