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Maine’s new fishing limits are examples of continued state actions to combat PFAS

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Maine's new fishing limits are examples of continued state actions to combat PFAS

States have spent more than $3 billion to eliminate harmful “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. Thirty-four states have considered 302 policies to protect people from the toxins, including 144 in 28 states.

Eleven states (ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, and WI) have standards such as maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for certain PFAS in drinking water. Maine has an interim standard that is in effect and enforceable while they go through the rulemaking to establish final PFAS MCLs.

Delaware and Virginia have also begun setting standards for certain PFAS. Twelve additional states (AK, CA, CT, CO, HI, IL, MD, MN, NC, NM, OH, and OR) have adopted guidelines, health advisories, or reporting levels for certain PFAS chemicals.

Maine recently updated and expanded its fish consumption advisories as part of that state’s broader work to limit its residents’ exposure to PFAS.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) made the changes to its advice on freshwater fish consumption following ongoing PFAS testing of water bodies across the state.

Testing of fish at these locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, above Maine CDC’s recommended levels for regular consumption. Based on the results of those tests, the Maine CDC now recommends limiting consumption of all fish or certain fish from the seven water bodies listed below.

Three advisories are extensions of the advisories issued last year, and four water bodies are new additions. With these updates and additions, 16 water bodies in Maine currently have a freshwater fish consumption advisory. All advice on fish consumption are listed on the Maine CDC website.

Elevated levels of the PFAS called perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected in fish tissue samples from McGrath Pond and Salmon Lake in Belgrade and Oakland; Aroostook River in Caribou; Kenduskeag Stream in Kenduskeag and Bangor; Kennebec River in Waterville; Limestone Flow at Fort Fairfield; Annabessacook Lake in Monmouth and Winthrop; and Sandy and Halfmoon Streams in Unity and Thorndike. The new fish consumption advisories apply to game fish caught in these water bodies.

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), at least 45 percent of the country’s tap water is estimated to contain one or more types of PFAS chemicals. There are more than 12,000 types of PFAS, not all of which can be detected with current tests; The USGS study tested for the presence of 32 types.

Maine established a Governor’s Task Force by Executive Order in 2019 to assess the prevalence of PFAS in Maine and propose a plan to address it. That Task Force has led to aggressive actions to address PFAS contamination in Maine, including:

  • Implementation of one of the nation’s first and strictest standards for PFAS in drinking water;
  • securing tens of millions more dollars in government funding to remediate PFAS contamination, including testing and remediation efforts through drinking water treatment systems;
  • establishing screening levels for PFAS in soil, fish and game, milk and beef;
  • signing a nation-first law banning the spread of sludge, a widespread source of PFAS;
  • Establishing a $60 million PFAS fund to support farmers whose land and water are contaminated with PFAS;
  • Dedicate funds to assess the impact of PFAS on Maine’s fish and wildlife, allowing for testing of hundreds of deer, turkey and fish that documented how PFAS in the environment affects Maine’s fish and wildlife;
  • expanding the statute of limitations for Maine citizens to file PFAS contamination claims and
  • Supporting Attorney General Aaron Frey’s lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers.

In total, since 2019, Maine has invested more than $100 million to address PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals found in a variety of consumer products. Exposure to certain PFAS chemicals has been linked to changes in liver and kidney function, changes in cholesterol levels, decreased immune response to vaccines in children, complications during pregnancy, and an increased risk of kidney cancer and possibly testicular cancer.

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