Eating river or lake fish in the United States is equivalent to ingesting water contaminated with chemicals like Teflon known for its imperviousness for a month, reveals a study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals are a large family of plastics developed in the 1940’s to resist moisture and heat. They are used in nonstick coatings, textiles and food packaging.
PFAS resist degradation and persist in the environment for a long time. In addition, they are harmful to health, can attack the liver, increase cholesterol levels, lower the immune response and increase the risk of various types of cancer.
Scientists in the study analyzed 500 fish samples from US lakes and rivers between 2013 and 2015. According to the study, the average contamination rate was 9.5 micrograms per kilogram. About 75% of these samples showed contamination based on PFOS, a subset of substances within PFAS.
This contamination rate is equivalent to drinking water contaminated with 48 parts per billion PFOS for a month. Under current country regulations, water is considered healthy for human consumption if it contains no more than 0.2 parts per billion of PFOS. The PFASbased contamination found in wildcaught freshwater fish is 278 times higher than in fish reared in farms.
For study leader David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group, the study results are cause for concern.
— [As descobertas são] Of particular concern given the impact on underprivileged communities that consume fish as a source of protein or for sociocultural reasons,” he told AFP.
— [Os PFAS são] probably the greatest chemical threat to the human species in the 21st century. This study is important because it provides the first evidence of direct transmission of PFAS from fish to humans,” added Patrick Byrne, an environmental researcher at John Moores University in Liverpool.
The study was released on the initiative of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, who submitted a proposal to ban PFAS to the European Chemicals Agency on Friday. This proposal reinforces the position of these five countries that the use of PFAS substances in Europe has not been adequately controlled.