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State updates PFAS guidelines for rainbow smelt, carp

gloved hands hold rainbow smelt.jpg
Mara Koenig, USFWS
Rainbow smelt

If you like rainbow smelt from Michigan lakes, you may want to limit how many servings you eat. The state has recently updated its fish consumption guidelines to account for PFAS chemicals in smelt and carp.

Under the new guidelines, the state recommends eating only 6 servings of smelt a year from Lake Huron and just 1 serving a month from Lake Michigan due to PFOS levels.

These recommendations are from the state’s Eat Safe Fish program, which monitors fish for persistent contaminants like mercury, PCBs, and PFAS.

Brandon Reid is a toxicologist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. He said more than 20 fish species across the state have been tested for PFAS.

“We try our best to be ultra-conservative in a health-protective way," Reid said. "When we put out information, we're confident that following those guidelines will minimize people's risk to any of those chemicals that may be present in those fish.”

Reid said fish are especially vulnerable to contaminants that often leach into water bodies and continue to cycle through the environment.

A recent study by Duke University suggests that eating even a few servings of freshwater fish may be on par with drinking PFAS contaminated water.

In response to this study, Reid said the state regularly reviews new data to adjust its guidelines accordingly.

For more information about safe fish in your area, check out the Eat Safe Fish guides.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.