Freshwater Fish and PFAS

Freshwater Fish and PFAS

Freshwater fish and PFAS: The alarming truth about toxic forever chemicals

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are toxic forever chemicals that have been widely used for more than 70 years. They are present in many everyday products, including non-stick cookware, water-repellent fabrics, and firefighting foams. Unfortunately, PFAS have also been detected in freshwater fish, which are often more contaminated than their ocean counterparts. In this article, we'll explore the dangers of PFAS, their impact on freshwater fish, and what can be done to address this alarming issue.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of chemicals that contain a carbon-fluorine bond. This bond makes the chemicals highly resistant to degradation and ensures their persistence in the environment. Some of the most well-known PFAS include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFAS have been linked to various health problems, including cancer, liver damage, and immune system suppression. They are also known to be endocrine disruptors, meaning that they can interfere with the body's hormonal balance.


@taborplace Replying to @taborplace @tommythelawyer 🐠 Environmental Working Group scientists finds that consumption of just a single serving of freshwater fish per year could be equal to a month of drinking water laced with the “forever chemical” PFOS at high levels that may be harmful. Researchers calculated that eating one fish in a year equated to ingesting water with PFOS at 48 parts per trillion, or ppt, for one month. EWG found the median amounts of PFAS in freshwater fish were an astounding 280 times greater than forever chemicals detected in some commercially caught and sold fish. The testing data, from the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, showed that consuming a single meal of freshwater fish could lead to similar PFAS exposure as ingesting store-bought fish every day for a year. The forever chemical found at greatest concentrations in freshwater fish was PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard, averaging roughly three in four of total PFAS detections.  The researchers analyzed data from more than 500 samples of fish fillets collected in the U.S. from 2013 to 2015 under monitoring programs by the EPA, the National Rivers and Streams Assessment and the Great Lakes Human Health Fish Fillet Tissue Study. The median level of total PFAS in fish fillets was 9,500 nanograms per kilogram, with a median level of 11,800 nanograms per kilogram in the Great Lakes.  “PFAS contaminate fish across the U.S., with higher levels in the Great Lakes and fish caught in urban areas,” said Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., an EWG senior scientist and another co-author. “PFAS do not disappear when products are thrown or flushed away. Our research shows that the most common disposal methods may end up leading to further environmental pollution.” #endocrinedisruptors #endocrinedisruptingchemicals #plasticisbad #toxicchemicals #foreverchemicals #pfos #pfas #scotchgard #scotchguard #pollution #toxicpollution #hormonedisruptors #freshwaterfish #thegreatlakes #greatlakesfishing ♬ original sound - Beatrice, CEO of Tabor Place


PFAS in freshwater fish

PFAS have been found in water bodies around the world, including the Great Lakes. According to a 2019 report by the International Joint Commission, PFOS and PFOA were found in all 12 species of fish that were sampled in the Great Lakes region. The report also found that PFAS levels in freshwater fish were often higher than in ocean fish. This is because PFAS are more likely to accumulate in freshwater environments, where they can remain in the sediment and bioaccumulate in fish over time.

Why are freshwater fish more contaminated?

One of the reasons why freshwater fish are more contaminated is that PFAS are often released into waterways from nearby industrial sites, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills. These sources can contaminate the water with PFAS, which can then enter the food chain and accumulate in fish. In addition, some types of freshwater fish, such as catfish and carp, are bottom-feeders that are more likely to ingest contaminated sediment.

3M Scotch Guard: A case study

One of the most well-known sources of PFAS contamination is 3M's Scotch Guard, a popular water-repellent fabric protector. 3M used PFOS in the production of Scotch Guard until the early 2000s, when the company phased out the chemical due to its toxicity. However, PFOS had already contaminated the groundwater and surface water near 3M's manufacturing plant in Minnesota. This contamination led to elevated levels of PFAS in nearby water bodies, including the Mississippi River and Lake Calhoun. These water bodies are popular fishing destinations, and the contamination has led to warnings against eating fish caught in these areas.

What can be done to address the issue?

The presence of PFAS in freshwater fish is a serious issue that requires action at both the individual and policy levels. Some of the steps that can be taken include:

  1. Avoiding products that contain PFAS: One of the best ways to reduce exposure to PFAS is to avoid products that contain them. This includes non-stick cookware, water-repellent fabrics, and certain types of food packaging.

  2. Supporting PFAS regulations: There is a growing movement to regulate PFAS at the policy level. This includes efforts to ban certain uses of PFAS, such as in firefighting foam, and to set limits on their presence in drinking water.

  3. Reducing industrial sources of PFAS: It's important to address the sources of PFAS contamination in waterways, including industrial sites, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills. This can be done through stricter regulations

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