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Maryland issues first fish consumption advisory because of PFAS

Maryland is recommending that people limit their consumption of certain fish in the Piscataway Creek in Prince George’s County because of PFAS contamination.

It’s the first time the state has issued such an advisory as a result of elevated levels of a per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substance in seafood, according to a news release from Friday.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that prolonged exposure to certain PFAS can increase the risk of fetal development issues during pregnancy, as well as cancer, immune system damage or damage to the liver, thyroid or other organ systems.

The chemicals have been used extensively in consumer products dating back to the 1940s, including nonstick cookware and water repellant fabrics. Their inclusion in firefighting foams, sometimes used during training exercises at military bases, has contributed to concerns about contamination in neighboring waterways and groundwater.

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“Maryland is committed to reducing the risks of PFAS chemicals in our state and continuing our close coordination with scientific, local, state and federal partners,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Our focus on PFAS in fish tissue and the resulting consumption advisory is another step forward in understanding, communicating, and reducing the potential for harm.”

For Piscataway Creek, a Potomac River tributary, the Maryland Department of the Environment is recommending that adults and children eat no more than one meal per month of redbreast sunfish. Adults should have no more than three meals per month of largemouth bass from the creek, and children should eat no more than two meals per month with the fish. Finally, children should eat no more than seven meals per month of yellow bullhead catfish from the creek.

As a result of its findings, MDE plans to monitor fish elsewhere in the Potomac River watershed from this fall through next fall, according to a news release from the department.

MDE started monitoring fish for PFAS contamination last fall, beginning on the Eastern Shore, with the Chester, Choptank, Corsica, Elk and Wicomico rivers. At those locations, officials didn’t find any chemical concentrations of concern, according to a news release from MDE. Now, MDE is conducting additional fish tissue sampling at sites with potential PFAS contamination sources nearby, and sites frequented by anglers. Maryland environmental regulators are also checking Chesapeake Bay oysters for PFAS. The mollusks filter water throughout their lives, which could allow PFAS to accumulate in their tissue over time. So far, they’ve tested oysters in St. Mary’s River, Patuxent River and Fishing Bay and found concentrations below the detection limit.

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Maryland officials are also monitoring drinking water for PFAS contamination. So far, PFAS levels above EPA’s threshold have been detected at wells in Westminster and Hampstead in Carroll County, which were taken off line for investigation. EPA has set a lifetime health advisory for two types of PFAS in drinking water at 70 parts per trillion. In other words, the agency believes that daily exposure at or below that level won’t cause adverse effects.

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