Instant follow-up: 3M's bluegill problem

Categories: Environment

My story in today's City Pages about former Minnesota Pollution Control Agency researcher Fardin Oliaei merits a quick footnote. As the piece relates, Oliaei's 16-year employment at the MPCA came to an end last month--an outcome the scientist attributes to institutional opposition to her efforts to focus public attention and research dollars on pollution from a ubiquitous and highly persistent family of synthetic chemicals known as PFCs. In particular, Oliaei has been concerned with a PFC called PFOS, which was long manufactured by the 3M Company at its facility in Cottage Grove for use in such products as Scotch-Guard.

Well, yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Health announced that it was issuing new fish consumption guidelines for a nearby stretch of the Mississippi River (Pool 2) because of research findings that show unusually high levels of PFOS in the fillets of bluegill sunfish.

Okay, this probably won't effect a hell of a lot of people. Pool 2, which runs from St. Paul's Ford Dam to Hastings, is a relatively polluted body of water. You have to be pretty cavalier to routinely eat fish from its waters. That said, until yesterday, the Department of Health held the position that it was okay to eat an unlimited number of bluegills from the river because bluegills, like other small panfish, typically don't accumulate conventional pollutants at the same rate as bigger predator fish.

PFOS seems to constitute an unusual exception to this principle. The compound binds to muscle tissue the way most other bioaccumulative toxins concentrate in fat. Long story short: the MDH now says no more than one bluegill meal a week out of the river.

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