Minnesota health experts monitoring PFAS contamination in freshwater fish

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Minnesota’s DFL lawmakers are calling for a ban on polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are also known as PFAS. The so-called “forever chemicals” never break down and have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer.

Now, a new national study is highlighting concerns over the amount of those chemicals being found in some freshwater fish.

That study could have implications for anglers in Minnesota.

According to research from the Environmental Working Group, eating just a single serving of freshwater fish could be equivalent to a month of drinking water contaminated with PFAS. CLICK HERE for a link to the full study.

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 the contaminants can have impacts on human health.

“PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals. There are over 5,000 of them, and they are really ubiquitous in commerce,” Catherine Neuschler, with the MPCA, said. “They’ve been used since the ’40s and ’50s, and they make things water repellant, they make things oil repellant. They’re designed to be very durable, so they don’t break down in the environment and that means they can accumulate in water, soil, fish tissue.”

MPCA officials say they’ve known for years that these chemicals do get into fish but they’re also keeping close tabs on it.

Neuschler says there are areas in the state — mostly in the east metro — where they’re seeing higher levels of PFAS in fish.

In some lakes, they’re working on mitigation and efforts to remove the chemicals from the water.

“Minnesota is probably one of the most robust PFAS monitoring programs in fish in the country. We regularly are looking at that data to make decisions, unfortunately, we have had to state that waters like in the Twin Cities east metro, around Lake Elmo, have been ‘do not eat,'” said Neuschler.

The Minnesota Department of Health wants to remind people this doesn’t impact all bodies of water, but if you’re ever concerned about where you’re fishing and if the fish there are safe to eat, the health department has a website where you can search by lake to see what the levels are there. CLICK HERE for that page.

Both agencies agree the new study just highlights the importance of the work they’re doing, tracking PFAS levels and working to clean up contaminated waters in the state.

CLICK HERE for additional details from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on PFAS.