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New research shows dangers of consuming freshwater fish laced with PFAS

Marie Harnois
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
In this May 18, 2015 photo, Marie Harnois, a member of the Passamaquoddy Indian tribe, uses a dip net to fish for baby eels, known as elvers, on the Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine.

New research illustrates the dangers of consuming freshwater fish, as scientists continue to uncover high-levels of so-called forever chemicals in bodies of water in Maine and throughout the country.

Consuming just one serving of freshwater fish a year is equal to drinking PFAS-laced water for a month, according to a recent study by scientists at the Environmental Working Group.

The EWG analyzed more than 500 fish samples from bodies of water across the country, including from seven Maine rivers.

The study references historical samples collected from fish in the Androscoggin, Kennebec, Saint John and the east branch of the Penobscot River, among others.

Dan Kusnierz, water resources program manager for the Penobscot Nation, said PFAS contamination is a food sovereignty issue.

The tribe has been working with the EPA to identify PFAS and other contaminants in anadromous fish found in the Penobscot River. Tribal citizens have been advised not to consume fish from the river, due to the potential health risks. But Kusnierz said some tribal members are still fishing and consuming their catch anyway, because the practice is deeply embedded within their culture.

"And then some are people... don't want to eat anything associated with the river," he said. "It's a significant loss to the tribe's sustenance rights and culture."

Work is underway to identify the exact sources of PFAS on tribal land and water, Kusnierz said.

State officials have issued do-not consume advisories for fish found in several Maine bodies of water that have high levels of PFAS.