PFAS Study On Wildlife In Cape Fear River Raises Concerns

PFAS Study On Wildlife In Cape Fear River Raises Concerns

4:55pm Feb 10, 2020
The Haw River is a tributary of the Cape Fear River. This is a photo of the Haw River near Pittsboro, where high levels of PFAS were detected last year. KERI BROWN/WFDD

A new study raises a lot of questions about potentially harmful chemicals in the Cape Fear River. It shows alarming levels of PFAS in some fish samples.

Researchers from North Carolina State University found elevated levels of 11 perfluorinated compounds in the blood of striped bass found in the Cape Fear River. That includes PFOS, which is used in firefighting foam and industrial manufacturing.

Scientists collected the samples from 58 wild bass. The North Carolina Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were also part of the research team.

NC State University biology professor Scott Belcher says smaller or younger fish had the highest levels of these compounds.

“What we found are the highest levels of PFAS in any wild-caught fish to date that’s been recorded, and we’ve also seen associations with biomarkers with alterations of the immune and liver function,” he says.

Belcher says increased activity in the liver and immune systems are two hallmark effects that have also been observed in humans from a number of PFAS studies.

The compounds don’t break down easily in the environment or human body.

NC State researchers will continue studying the impact of these chemicals on striped bass and other fish in the waterway.

Belcher says they are currently working on another study that looks at PFAS levels in alligators.

*Follow WFDD’s Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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