Read the full article by Greg Cope (NC State University News)
“Researchers from North Carolina State University have found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in every step of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River food chain, even though the river does not have a known industrial input of these compounds. The study examined the entire aquatic ecosystem for PFAS compounds and identified strong links between ecosystem groups that lead to biomagnification, the process that leads to greater concentrations of these substances in animals that sit higher on the food chain – including humans.
PFAS compounds were engineered to resist friction and heat, and are in many products that we use daily, from furniture to meat packaging. However, it is this ‘slippery’ characteristic that makes them persist in ecosystems and poses a risk to our health.
‘These compounds are engineered to be persistent on purpose; this is how they keep stains off your couch and eggs from sticking to your frying pan,’ says Tom Kwak, unit leader of NC Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, professor of applied ecology at NC State, and a co-author of the study. ‘We pay the price for these compounds when they enter the aquatic ecosystem.’
In a study measuring real-time PFAS contamination levels along the entire food chain of this major Atlantic river – from water and sediment to insects and fish – the researchers identified two PFAS hot spots along the Pee Dee and were able to establish strong links of PFAS transmission up the aquatic food chain.
The research team collected water, sediment, algae, plant, insect, fish, crayfish, and mollusk samples at five study sites along the length of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River, which begins in Blowing Rock, N.C., and runs 230 miles to empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Winyah Bay, South Carolina. They analyzed the samples for 14 different PFAS compounds…”