Where our chemicals end up –
FISH A STRIPED bass out of North Carolina’s Cape Fear River, and it’s likely you’ve just hoisted up a swimming vessel for PFAS, a family of long-lasting chemicals found in many consumer products and fire-fighting foams.
Of the fish tested for the chemical in a study recently published in the journal Environment International, all had elevated levels of PFAS. Compared to previous studies in 2015 and 2001, the North Carolina stripers have the highest rates of PFAS documented in North American fish.
A number of environmental issues have made restoring the Cape Fear River’s striped bass population a challenge. Though the river is regularly refilled with fish hatched offsite, scientists are beginning to suspect that PFAS is impeding sustainable reproduction, impacting the quality of the fish’s eggs.
Statewide, North Carolina has some of the most PFAS-contaminated water in the country, thanks to its abundant chemical manufacturing facilities and military bases. Tap water samples regularly show that many of the state’s residents are drinking water that exceeds the EPA’s recommended limit for PFAS.
Once the drinking water problem was identified, “people kept asking: What about fish?” says Scott Belcher, an environmental toxicologist at North Carolina State University and a corresponding author on the study of PFAS in striped bass.
Because PFAS is so ubiquitous in striped bass and found in river sediment, Belcher and his colleagues suspect that other aquatic organism also have the chemicals in their bodies.