Study suggests eating freshwater fish could have health risks

A concern for those who consume large amounts of the fish they catch
Study suggests eating freshwater fish once per year could have health risks
Study suggests eating freshwater fish once per year could have health risks(KBJR)
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:32 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:50 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - For many people in the Northland, fishing is a way of life.

But a new study suggests freshwater fish may contain concerning levels of forever chemicals known as PFOS and PFAS.

In the land of 10,000 Lakes, fishing provides both food and fun, it’s a pastime that appears to be growing.

“About 30 to 35% of our population fishes. I see that increasing, especially up here on Lake Superior, and in our northeast corner of the state,” said Don Schreiner, a Fisheries Specialist with Minnesota Sea Grant.

But a recent study published by the journal Environmental Research suggests eating locally caught freshwater fish once a year could have the same effect as drinking water heavily polluted with forever chemicals for an entire month.

To see the findings from the study, click here.

According to Schreiner, those chemicals get into water through runoff from human use.

“Foam on runways and airports to put out fires, cooking utensils, the nonstick aspect of cooking utensils,” Schreiner said.

That’s a concern for many anglers, but especially those who consume large amounts of the fish they catch.

“We know that a lot of band members want to exercise their treaty rights. They go out and they spearfish, they net fish during the treaty fishing season,” said Nancy Schuldt, Water Projects Coordinator for Fond Du Lac.

Schuldt advises tribal members on environmental concerns.

“We walk a really fine tightrope trying to give good advice about eating the kind of fish, the size of fish, and the species of fish that are safe to eat,” Schuldt said.

She’s not alone in advising anglers.

Catherine Neuschler with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says PFAS levels can vary greatly depending on the lake’s location and the species of fish.

“Really what we see is that the fish accumulate levels of concern where there’s more likely to be sources of PFAS,” Neuschler said.

She said Minnesota has its own long-term studies, measuring PFAS and PFOS in our area.

“There definitely are great places to fish that have very low levels of PFAS,”

The Minnesota Department of Health has fish consumption guidelines specific to different regions and species, click here for more information.