Eating one fish in US is like drinking contaminated water for a month: ‘probably the biggest chemical threat of the 21st century’

But the persistent nature of these PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyles, indicates that they accumulate over time in the air, soil, water of lakes and rivers, food, and even in the human body.

There have been increasing calls for stricter restrictions on the use of PFAS, which are harmful to health with liver effects, high cholesterol, reduced immunity and several forms of cancer. The researchers wanted to measure pollution in freshwater fish by analyzing 500 samples taken from US lakes and rivers between 2013 and 2015.

According to their study published in Environmental Research, the average contamination rate was 9.5 micrograms per kilogram. Of all the contaminated samples, three-quarters were PFOS, one of the most common and harmful contaminants among the thousands that make up PFAS.

Eating one freshwater fish is equivalent to drinking contaminated water with 48 parts per billion of PFOA per month. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water is considered safe to drink if it contains no more than 0.2 parts per trillion of PFOS, according to its new recommendation.

Levels of PFAS found in wild-caught freshwater fish were found to be 278 times higher than those found in commercially farmed fish.

“I can no longer look at a fish without thinking about PFAS contamination,” David Andrews, a scientist at the NGO Environmental Working Group who led the study and grew up fishing and eating fish, told AFP.

He continued that the finding is “particularly concerning for disadvantaged communities who consume fish as a source of protein or for socio-cultural reasons”.

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“This research makes me very angry because the companies that manufacture and use PFAS have irresponsibly polluted the world.”

For Patrick Byrne, an environmental pollution researcher at Britain’s John Moores University in Liverpool, PFAS “may be the greatest chemical threat to humanity in the 21st century”.

“This study is important because it provides the first evidence of direct transmission of PFAS from fish to humans,” he said.

The study was published after an initiative by Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, which last Friday submitted a proposal to ban the use of PFAS to the European Chemicals Agency.

The proposal expands on five countries’ findings that the use of PFAS is not adequately regulated.

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