Study: 1 serving of freshwater fish equals a month of drinking water with ‘forever chemicals’

Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 8:16 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Fish fry season is in full swing here in Cleveland when thousands enjoy perch or walleye dinners every Friday during lent. But there’s an alarming new study that suggests just one serving of freshwater fish a year could have potentially dangerous effects.

Stakeholders in the local fishing industry took notice of the recent study released by the Environmental Working Group, that found eating just one serving of freshwater fish per year, could be equal to a month of drinking water laced with the “forever chemical” or PFAS, at high levels that may be harmful.

“To me that is a signal that we should know more,” said Chef Doug Katz, who is an ambassador to the Seafood Watch task force with Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“I was concerned about the health and safety of our customers and of the people that eat fish,” said Tom McIntyre of Kate’s Fish at the West Side Market.

The EWG’s researchers found forever chemicals in freshwater fish in places like Lake Erie and the Rocky River were 280 times greater than those detected in some commercially caught fish.

Charter fishing boat captain, Denny Sharrone, of 22 Sport Fishing Charters, averages about 50 plus charters a year out on Lake ELrie.

“It’s alarming. I think that’s why it’s important that we do listen to a bunch of different information,” he said.

PFAS wind up in our lakes and rivers from industrial polluters, and they never go away. Exposure has been linked to suppression of the immune system, reduced vaccine efficacy, an increased risk of certain cancers, increased cholesterol, reproductive and developmental problems.

The Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory doesn’t currently have recommendations made specifically for PFAS in fish. But the Ohio Department of Health issues their own advisories.

Their recommendations “are designed to be protective of even the most sensitive parts of Ohio’s population, including young children. This means that anyone eating Ohio-caught fish is protected if they follow the recommendations.”

According to the ODH, adults can safely eat 4-6 ounces of Ohio fish every week, while children can consumer 2-3 ounces. Some species of fish from certain bodies of water may have a more or less restrictive advisory. Some should never be eaten.

“I think it’s important that we are mindful of the studies that are out there so that we can continue to remain safe. There’s a lot of conflicting information quite honestly,” said Sharrone.

Mcintyre says this won’t affect what he sells or his confidence in the safety of lake fish.

“It’s hard to see these invisible things that may or may not be there. It’s certainly worth heeding the warnings and making sure you do what’s best for your own personal health. But the benefits of seafood should certainly outweigh any associated risks,” he said.

Katz says moderation will be key here, as well as including farm-raised fish in our diet.

“We as restaurateurs and chefs are responsible for serving clean food that people can rely on,” he said.

Captain Sharrone is going to keep casting a line.

“I think it’s just all of us getting to know what’s going on a little bit more so we can make good decisions,” he said.