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Calls For More Regulation After Federal Data Shows PFAS In Food System

Simon Shek Flickr CC
Credit Simon Shek Flickr CC

Unpublished federal data shows high levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in a sample of food products.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group obtained details of food samples taken in the mid-Atlantic by the Food and Drug Administration.

They found elevated levels of various types of PFAS in meat and seafood products, as well as chocolate cake and other items.

Right now, state and federal regulators are prioritizing drinking water as the primary path for PFAS exposure.

New Hampshire officials are due to propose new PFAS limits for public water systems this month. They’re also suing the makers of the chemicals for water contamination.

Jamie DeWitt is a toxicology professor at East Carolina State University who spoke on an EWG press call. She says food and water may create different risks, based on how we consume them. But she says federal regulators should still take more action.

"I think these data do lead to the question: is it time for a comprehensive risk assessment for PFAS that includes more than just drinking water?” she says.

PFAS is thought to enter food from treated packaging, or potentially certain kinds of fertilizer.

A Maine dairy farm was recently all but shut down after PFAS turned up in its cows' milk.

"We think it's really clear that EPA should require testing of sewage sludge before it is applied to land to determine whether or not there are PFAS chemicals,” says EWG legislative director Colin O’Neil.

Fertilizer handlers in New Hampshire say they’re working on new ways to prevent PFAS entering their products. And state regulators are also considering their options.

Copyright 2019 New Hampshire Public Radio

Annie Ropeik reports on state economy and business issues for all Indiana Public Broadcasting stations, from a home base of WBAA. She has lived and worked on either side of the country, but never in the middle of it. At NPR affiliate KUCB in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, she covered fish, oil and shipping and earned an Alaska Press Club Award for business reporting. She then moved 4,100 miles to report on chickens, chemicals and more for Delaware Public Media. She is originally from the D.C. suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, but her mom is a Hoosier. Annie graduated from Boston University with a degree in classics and philosophy. She performs a mean car concert, boasts a worryingly encyclopedic knowledge of One Direction lyrics and enjoys the rule of threes. She is also a Hufflepuff.
Annie Ropeik
Annie Ropeik joined NHPR’s reporting team in 2017, following stints with public radio stations and collaborations across the country. She has reported everywhere from fishing boats, island villages and cargo terminals in Alaska, to cornfields, factories and Superfund sites in the Midwest.