Eating a wild fish the same as drinking tainted water a month: study

(FILES) This handout photo, taken June 14, 2022 and released June 20 by the U.S.-funded Wonders of the Mekong project, shows a 661-pound (300 kg) freshwater ray caught in the Mekong at Stung Treng in Cambodia was captured and released province. – A fisherman on the Mekong River in Cambodia has caught the largest freshwater fish ever recorded, scientists said on June 20 – a 300-kilogram stingray. (Photo by Handout / Wonders of the Mekong / AFP) / LIMITED EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT ‘AFP PHOTO / WONDERS OF THE MEKONG / Chhut Chheana’ – NO MARKETING OR PROMOTIONS – DISTRIBUTED TO CUSTOMERS AS A SERVICE

The invisible chemicals called PFAS were first developed in the 1940s to resist water and heat and are now used in items such as non-stick pans, textiles, fireproof foams and food packaging.

But the indestructibility of PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances means that the pollutants have accumulated over time in the air, soil, lakes, rivers, food, drinking water and even in our bodies.

There have been increasing calls for tighter regulation of PFAS, which have been linked to a number of serious health problems, including liver damage, high cholesterol, reduced immune responses and various types of cancer.

To find out PFAS contamination in locally caught fish, a team of researchers analyzed more than 500 samples from rivers and lakes in the United States between 2013 and 2015.

According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research, the mean PFAS level in fish was 9,500 nanograms per kilogram.

Almost three quarters of the “Forever Chemicals” discovered were PFOS, one of the most common and most dangerous among thousands of PFAS.

Eating just one freshwater fish was equivalent to drinking water with 48 parts per trillion PFOS for a month, the researchers calculated.

Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency lowered the level of PFOS in drinking water, which it considers safe, to 0.02 parts per trillion.

Total PFAS levels in freshwater fish were 278 times higher than those found in commercially sold fish, the study said.

– “Top Chemical Threat” –

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which led the research, told AFP he grew up catching and eating fish.

“I can’t look at a fish anymore without thinking about PFAS contamination,” said Andrews, one of the study’s authors.

The results are “of particular concern because of the impact on underprivileged communities that consume fish for protein, social or cultural reasons,” he added.

“This research makes me incredibly angry because companies that manufactured and used PFAS contaminated the globe and have not been held accountable.”

Patrick Byrne, a pollution researcher at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK who is not involved in the research, said PFAS are “probably the greatest chemical threat facing humanity in the 21st century”.

“This study is important because it provides the first evidence of widespread transmission of PFAS directly from fish to humans,” he told AFP.

Andrews called for much tighter regulation to end all non-essential uses of PFAS.

The study comes after Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden submitted a proposal to ban PFAS to the EU’s European Chemicals Agency on Friday.

The proposal, “one of the broadest in EU history,” comes after the five countries determined that PFAS are not adequately controlled and bloc-wide regulation is needed, the agency said in a statement.