PFAS contamination in fish and seafood, calls for action

In a recent study published in the Environmental Science and Pollution Research journal on May 6th, 2024, researchers confirm the pervasive presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in fish, particularly benthic and demersal seafood. These chemicals, notorious for their persistence in the environment and adverse effects on human health, have raised concerns about food safety for sensitive and vulnerable individuals.

This research emphasizes the significance of fish and seafood as a crucial source of nutrients, but also as a reservoir for Persistence Organic Pollutants (POPs). We already knew about methylmercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in marine life, but the inclusion of PFAS adds a new dimension to the challenge.

The authors explain that the contamination levels vary depending on the source of the seafood. Farmed fish can maintain lower contamination levels with careful attention to feed materials. However, wild-caught fish are more susceptible to accumulating PFAS from polluted water. Water quality and trophic levels significantly impact contamination levels.  

International agreements such as the Stockholm Convention recognize the urgency of addressing PFAS contamination on a global scale. Recommendations to classify long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids (C9–C21 PFCAs) compounds as POPs  highlights the need for coordinated action to protect human health and the environment.  

According to this study, alarming findings from the US Food and Drug Administration PFAS monitoring program, indicate higher susceptibility to contamination among benthic biota such as clams and crabs. This underscores the need for comprehensive risk assessment strategies to safeguard public health.  

These experts recommend a holistic approach, aligning with the One Health framework, which recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. By integrating PFAS intake assessments into broader efforts to establish safe and sustainable food systems, policymakers can address the challenges posed by environmental contaminants.  

However, several challenges exist, including the need for more robust sampling activities, enhanced analytical methods, and economic considerations. As regulations evolve, bridging the gap between risk assessment and risk management becomes even more critical.  

Mitigating PFAS contamination in fish and seafood, would safeguard both public health and environmental integrity.