Minnesota DFL lawmakers are calling for a ban on polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. So-called “forever chemicals” never break down and have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer.
Now, a new national study highlights concerns about the amount of these chemicals found in some freshwater fish. This study could have implications for Minnesota anglers.
According to research by the Environmental Working Group, eating just one serving of freshwater fish could be equivalent to a month’s worth of drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health have been closely monitoring PFAS levels in fish for years. They say the state has one of the best programs for tracking this.
Over the past 10-20 years, it has become clear that pollutants can have impacts on human health.
“PFASs are a group of man-made chemicals. There are over 5,000 of them and they are really ubiquitous in commerce,” said Catherine Neuschler of the MPCA. “They’ve been used since the 1940s and 1950s, and they make things water-repellent, they make things oil-repellent. They’re designed to be very long-lasting, so they don’t break down in the environment and that means they can build up in water, soil and fish tissue.”
MPCA officials say they’ve known for years that these chemicals are getting into the fish, but they’re also keeping a close eye on it.
Neuschler says there are areas in the state, primarily in the east metro, where they are seeing higher levels of PFAS in fish.
In some lakes, they are working on mitigation and efforts to remove chemicals from the water.
“Minnesota probably has one of the most robust fish PFAS monitoring programs in the country. We look at that data periodically to make decisions, unfortunately we’ve had to say that waters like in the Twin Cities East Metro around Lake Elmo have “don’t eat” state, Neuschler said.
The Minnesota Department of Health wants to remind people that this doesn’t affect all bodies of water, but if you’re ever concerned about where you’re fishing and whether the fish there are safe to eat, the health department has a place website where you can search by lake to see what levels there are.
Both agencies agree that the new study only highlights the importance of the work they are doing, monitoring PFAS levels and working to clean up contaminated waters in the state.