Last February, after receiving test results from the University of Michigan’s Biological Laboratory confirming astronomical levels of per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in St. Inigoes Creek, I sent a simple question to the St. Mary’s County Health Department. I asked if it was OK for my daughter, who may become pregnant, to eat the seafood from St. Inigoes Creek where we live. I asked for a simple yes or no answer.
I received the following response from Kathy Brohawn, environmental program manager for the state of Maryland:
“Currently there are no known thresholds for natural waters or oyster tissue for PFAS. Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) does not currently have any advisories for contaminants in oysters. The only known PFAS thresholds are associated with drinking water, where the risk of exposure is greatest. The Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is currently researching the issue and MDE looks for their guidance related to sampling (surface waters and fish or shellfish tissue) and standard/approved methods, as well as considering a threshold for advising the public. MDE does not have any additional information regarding PFAS levels in surface waters or oysters at this time.”
Apparently, the state says its OK to eat the seafood from the creek.
The number one source of PFAS in our bodies is from the food we eat, especially the seafood. Also, many states are developing guidelines because of the lack of leadership from the EPA. Maryland lags far behind many states in protecting public health from PFAS.
In the spring last year, I tested seafood from the creek and found these levels of PFAS: oysters — 2,070 parts per trillion (ppt); crab — 6,650 ppt; and rockfish — 23,100 ppt.
In September, the MDE released a report that analyzed PFAS levels in seawater and oysters. The study concluded that although PFAS is present in tidal waters of the St. Mary’s River, the concentrations are “significantly below risk based recreational use screening criteria and oyster consumption site-specific screening criteria.”
The data released by the MDE showed levels 100 times higher than the permissible level for PFAS in the European Union. The analytical methods and basis for the screening criteria used by MDE are questionable, resulting in a misleading of the public, and providing a deceptive and false sense of safety.
An 8-ounce meal of baked rockfish containing 23,100 ppt of PFAS contains 5,244 nanograms of PFAS. That’s 17 times greater than the European weekly limit for an individual weighing 150 pounds. Fish caught near large military bases routinely contain hundreds of thousands of parts per trillion of the substances.
These “forever chemicals” never break down and they bioaccumulate in our bodies. They are linked to liver, kidney, testicular, and breast cancer. They are known to cause fetal abnormalities and contribute to the likelihood of a host of childhood diseases like ADHD and asthma.
The Navy recently disclosed that 84,757 ppt of the deadliest variety of PFAS were detected in the groundwater at Webster Field, just 1,800 feet from our beach. This is 1,200 times over the federal suggested guideline of 70 ppt for groundwater. This makes our little paradise one of the most contaminated places in the nation.
The Navy held an online meeting open to the public scheduled April 28. I’ve asked the St. Mary’s County Health Department to ask the Navy one question on our behalf. My daughter, who is now 29, may soon become pregnant with our first grandchild. Is it OK for her to eat the oysters, crabs and rockfish?