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PFAS causes 'Do not eat the fish' advisories

PFAS causes 'Do not eat the fish' advisories

PFA chemical contamination in fish due to bioaccumulation

The State of Michigan is finding industrial chemicals known as PFAS in the tissue of fish. So it's been issuing “Don’t Eat the Fish” advisories along lakes, rivers and streams. But there are concerns about whether state officials are doing as much as they should.

Before we get too far into the story, we have to start with a little science.

The reason PFAS chemical contamination in fish is such a concern is because of something called bioaccumulation.

CREDIT MDHHS ILLUSTRATION
If there is a toxic substance in the river, all the organisms in the water get a bit of it. So, if a small fish eats something such as insect larvae, it’s taking in all the toxic material in the larvae. Then, when a bigger fish eats that small fish, it gets all the toxic substances from all the larvae the little fish ever ate. As that bigger fish eats more little fish, the toxic chemicals build up in that fish.

You catch the fish. You eat it. You get concentrated PFAS chemicals in you. The more contaminated fish you eat, the more PFAS chemicals will be in your body. That could cause serious health problems.

The state’s top medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, says it’s a good idea to check whether the fish you’re catching and eating are safe.

“Just go to ‘michigan eat safe fish,'" Wells said, adding, "It will actually outline the water bodies that you’re interested in fishing in and tell you how much fish you can eat per month or how many servings per month or if you’re not to eat fish out of certain areas that you’re fishing in.”

As samples from fish show PFAS contamination, Wells says the state of Michigan issues ‘don’t eat the fish’ advisories for parts or all of a river.

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