‘Forever Chemicals’ Contaminate America’s Freshwater Fish

A drawing of a plate with fish with hands holding a piece of fish on a fork

As reported in Kaiser Family Foundation Health News: This past March, the EPA proposed the nation’s first PFAS drinking water standards, but some scientists worry that regulations for freshwater fish are lagging. A recent study from The Environmental Working Group found that just one serving of fish can be equivalent to a month of drinking water contaminated with 48 parts per trillion of the common chemical PFOS. That is 12 times the EPA proposed limit for drinking water!

Minnesota is one of about 17 states that have issued guidance for consumption of freshwater fish, and their guidance is very specific. Follow the More information link below to read the Kaiser Family Foundation article and for links to the MN Department of Health guidance

To put this issue into context, here is some background on PFAS from the MN Department of Health.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of human-made chemicals that have been widely used for decades. PFAS are extremely stable and do not breakdown in the environment. PFAS have been found in the groundwater and surface water in Minnesota. Some PFAS can build up and stay in the human body for many years. They can also slowly decline if the exposure stops.

PFAS, like other emerging contaminants, are the focus of active research and study, which means that new information is released frequently.

An article highlighting the issue of PFAS in freshwater fish was published in the Washington Post on January 4, 2024, with analysis by Hannah Norman and research by McKenzie Beard.

The full December 1, 2023, Kaiser Family Foundation Health News article by Hannah Norman provides insight on the issue, what the EPA research has found and where, and which states are providing guidance for consumption of freshwater fish.

The MN Department of Health has a webpage with fish consumption guidelines. That page provides many references to help keep you, your family, and your friends safe:

  • List of waterbodies with low PFAS
  • Statewide Safe-eating guidelines
  • Waterbody specific Safe-eating guidelines
  • And more

Please be aware that the MN Department of Health notes that some lakes and rivers in the East Metro Area of the Twin Cities have advised the pubic to not eat any fish due to high levels of PFOS in fish and/or water. Note: PFOS are a subset of PFAS and are a key concern as it related to consumption of fish.