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Study finds PFAS in game fish can accumulate, be passed down

PFAS fish concentrations
2022 Great Lakes PFAS Summit

A recent study found that PFAS - or toxic “forever chemicals” - in Lake Michigan coho salmon, chinook salmon, lake trout, and rainbow trout can accumulate and be passed down to fish embryos.

87 salmonids were collected for the research... PFAS were detected in all of them. The levels are lower than the health advisories set by the state,

The study found concentrations were higher among sculpins, predator fish, and fish eggs. The most common form of the chemical found in the fish was PFOS, a highly toxic compound that is no longer manufactured in the US, but still persists in the environment.

Alison Zachritz is a PhD student from Notre Dame University, who worked on the study. She said the findings underscore the “forever” aspect of PFAS chemicals.

“We call them forever chemicals, and so once they're in the environment, they're continuing to cycle and so that can be through movement up the food web or eggs or decomposing carcasses, so there are a lot of different ways they can cycle,” Zachritz said.

Zachritz said the high PFAS levels in fish eggs may show that fish parents “offload” PFAS to their embryos, which has implications for fish and human health. For the full study, visit the published journal here.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at