In 2022, six anglers who eat fish from the river joined FOTR’s ranks of community scientists when they agreed to collect fish for PFAS testing (meet the anglers). These anglers used a hook and line at 15 locations in the Rouge, Huron, and Detroit Rivers to collect one hundred fish as part of a partnership with the Ecology Center to test whole fish for these forever chemicals.
In late February 2023, the Ecology Center released the results of the PFAS testing, and they were sobering. Every single fish the anglers caught had at least one of 14 PFAS chemicals. PFAS were found not only in the filet but in the liver, eggs, stomach, and intestines, with the highest levels in the liver. PFAS levels in Rouge fish ranged from 11-59 parts per billion. There are no federal health advisory values for PFAS for fish consumption. Michigan only issues advisories when PFOS values exceed 300 ppb. Recent reports suggest that no level of PFAS is safe in fish.
PFAS have known negative health effects and do not break down easily in the environment. Yet, little is known about how these chemicals bioaccumulate in the bodies of fish and how this affects those who consume them. These anglers are helping us to understand this complex problem. As far as eating Rouge fish – anglers should follow current fish consumption advisories and advocate for revised standards informed by research such as this.
The Ecology Center will be hosting a virtual event to discuss the findings on March 16 at 5:30 p.m.