Read the full article by Dave Golowenski (The Columbus Dispatch)

“Although the touting of Ohio fishing reasonably ramps up this time of year, like cigarette packaging it probably should come with a health warning.

In keeping with the spirit of World Earth Day that arrives Saturday, consider what follows as that absent warning: Catching and releasing fish in Ohio waters can be a fun, challenging and diverting pastime; eating caught fish can be harmful to health.

So concludes a report based on research sampling issued earlier this year by The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington-based lobbying and education organization, on the prevalence nationwide of ‘forever chemicals’ in freshwater fish.

Nationwide obviously includes Ohio, where fish samples taken at 30 or so locations that included the Ohio River, Lake Erie and tributaries of both turned up measurable levels of the chemicals, known as PFAS and PFOS.

PFAS and PFOS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are described by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as a widespread ‘group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water.’

Developed during the 1940s at least partly to bolster World War II needs, the chemicals afterward became commercially important. Their thousands of permutations are included in a long list of everyday products such as Teflon, fire retardants, Scotchgard, wire sheathing, plastics, tents, outdoors apparel, shampoos and cosmetics.

In short, the chemicals were put to various profit-making uses, many of them welcome. For decades nobody paid much attention, including federal and state regulators that generally aren’t tasked with determining the safety of introduced chemicals until they show harm.

That harm could be wrought by particular ‘forever chemicals’ was determined some years after a 1999 lawsuit was brought in federal court on behalf of a sickened group of West Virginia residents by the Ohio-based law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. The suit successfully linked the group’s various maladies, some of them lethal, to a DuPont chemical plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where millions of pounds of a Teflon component were leaked into nearby water, including the Ohio River.

What has been determined since is that ‘very low exposure to some PFAS has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity and many other health problems,’ the EWG reports.

Those ‘other’ problems tied to PFAS and PFOS, the Taft law firm reports, include ‘high cholesterol, changes in liver enzymes, decreased immune response to vaccination, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia.’

Almost two decades after the confirmation of a link to human illness, work is being done to eliminate the production of the chemicals identified as toxic.

However, ‘forever chemicals,’ which have been detected atop Mt. Everest and in the deepest ocean trenches, don’t disappear but persist in living organisms. Longer-lived species that eat other animals are most likely to accumulate PFAS and PFOS at high levels.”…