PFAS chemicals are common in our environment, and high amounts can affect our health. Almost everyone’s been exposed to PFAS in our air, water, and soil, and from using products that have PFAS. PFAS contamination is affecting our lakes and streams.Graphic with sky and trees that explains PFAS With fishing season starting, it’s important to be aware that PFAS are in local fish, and limit how much you eat. Stay tuned for future blog posts to learn other ways to reduce your exposure to these chemicals!

Some Dane County waters have PFAS contamination

Firefighting foams with PFAS were used for years at Truax Field Air National Guard Base and Dane County Regional Airport. Storm water runoff and the flow of groundwater carried the PFAS into our lakes and streams.

A large source of PFAS contamination is the firefighting foams used at the airport, but given the widespread usage of the chemicals, contamination is becoming more common. As a result, PFAS contamination has been found in:

  • Wingra Creek
  • Black Earth Creek
  • Starkweather Creek
  • The Yahara River downstream to the Rock River
  • Lake Monona
  • Lake Waubesa
  • Lake Kegonsa
  • Upper and Lower Mud Lake

Some fish species in Dane County waters have PFAS

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tested fish from the Yahara River chain of lakes (Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa) in 2020. They found PFAS levels above the recommended health standards in several fish species for all lakes except Mendota. In 2022, tests of fish from Black Earth Creek showed the same. The DNR and Department of Health Services (DHS) created PFAS advisories for eating fish from Dane County waters based on this testing.

In general, panfish (white bass, bluegill, and crappie) tend to have the highest levels of PFAS. There’s no one place in fish where PFAS accumulate, so we don’t know of any ways to prepare or cook fish that will reduce your exposure to PFAS.

You can lower your PFAS risk

Limit how much fish you eat 

There are ways to lower how much PFAS you have in your body. If you like catching and eating fish from our local waters, take action. The more fish you eat, the higher your risk of health effects. We’re not telling you to stop eating fish from contaminated waters, but you should limit how much you eat. This is especially important for children, people who are pregnant or nursing, or are able to get pregnant. We’ve created a handy fish advisory guide that helps you choose fish with less PFAS, PCBs, and mercury.And if you fish in a lot of different areas, Wisconsin DNR created an interactive tool to learn about PFAS throughout Wisconsin, including Dane County. You can learn locations with known PFAS contamination, PFAS-related fish advisories, and which waters were sampled for PFAS.

Wash your hands after touching foam from contaminated waters

Do your best to avoid touching foam in water we know has PFAS contamination. The foam most likely has much higher amounts of PFAS than the water does. Just touching the foam isn’t an immediate health concern because your skin doesn’t easily absorb PFAS. But you should wash your hands before eating or putting anything in your mouth to avoid swallowing PFAS chemicals. If your dog likes to help you fish, rinse them with clean water if they had contact with foam. This helps prevent exposure to PFAS when they lick their fur. And don’t forget to bring them a clean source of drinking water so they aren’t tempted to drink from the water you’re fishing in!

Check out our new video to learn more!

We made a video that explains more about reducing your exposure to PFAS when fishing. Check it out and share it with your fishing buddies!

Watch for part 2 and 3!

Eating fish from PFAS contaminated waters is just one way you may be exposed to PFAS chemicals. In upcoming blogs, we’ll explain which everyday products have PFAS, and talk about PFAS in drinking water. Subscribe to our blog now so you don’t miss them!

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.