More “forever chemicals” found in Colorado and U.S. freshwater fish, study warns

PFAS levels in locally caught fish are “staggeringly high” according to the Environmental Working Group researchers, and Colorado has no fish consumption guidelines

Michael Booth
The Colorado Sun
Fountain Creek splits around a small island at Fountain Creek Regional Park, looking west toward Pikes Peak, on Aug. 24, 2021.
Michael Booth/The Colorado Sun

A single serving of freshwater fish can deliver as much PFAS “forever chemicals” as drinking a month’s worth of water tainted with the toxins, a new study says, echoing a Colorado study last year that found the dangerous compounds in every fish sample from popular state waters. 

An analysis of EPA samples by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, published Tuesday in the journal “Environmental Research,” compared the PFAS ingestion from eating one fish portion to drinking water tainted at 48 parts per trillion for a whole month. In June, the EPA lowered its recommended guidelines for two of the thousands of PFAS variations, PFOA and PFOS, from a maximum of 70 parts per trillion in drinking water down to 0.004 and 0.02 parts per trillion, respectively.

There is no EPA or Colorado standard for the amount of PFAS chemicals allowed in fish caught by anglers or sold to consumers. Grocery store seafood tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not test nearly as high for PFOS, one of the most potentially dangerous of the thousands of varieties of PFAS compounds, the EWG study said. 

Lower income anglers who rely on fresh caught fish for sustenance, and cultures that consume their own catch more regularly, are more vulnerable to the contamination, the study said. That makes fresh caught fish yet another environmental justice issue, with disproportionate impacts from historic pollution, as scientists find PFAS toxins collecting in more and more places.

Past random sampling of human blood has shown PFAS in the bloodstream of nearly everyone on Earth. The water- and fire-repellent chemicals have been used for decades in plastics and coatings ranging from carpet to fast food wrappers to firefighting foam to cosmetics. PFAS sheds from the consumer and industrial products into sewage, stormwater drainage, and freshwater streams and lakes. 

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