Eel-eaters in parts of Suffolk County should beware: the creatures could be contaminated with the potential carcinogens found in firefighting foam, nonstick coatings and the like, the county health department said on Wednesday.
Youngsters and women of childbearing age are the most vulnerable, it said.
Early tests found American eels caught in the tidal areas between the Carmans River near Yaphank and Quantuck Creek near Quogue had much higher levels of the chemicals called per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) than crabs or fish, it said in a statement.
"The preliminary results for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS, the most common type of PFAS found in fish) suggest that people may want to consider limiting their consumption of eels or avoiding consumption altogether from this area," the health department said.
It added it might modify its advice after further analysis. Suffolk health officials were not immediately available to offer additional information.
The possible health hazards of these chemicals are increasingly under the spotlight as Congress weighs stricter regulations and the New York State Legislature has enacted bills banning PFAS from firefighting foam. A spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the office will review the legislation.
In June, Cuomo said it was a “matter of weeks” before the state Department of Health released its recommended drinking water standards for several chemicals, including PFOS, found in firefighting foams, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is used in making stain- and water-resistant materials, as well as another pollutant, 1,4-dioxane. The recommendations would trigger a monthslong public comment period before the standard becomes enforceable.
The average concentration of PFOS in the eels tested varied from 42 micrograms per kilogram in the Forge River, 43 in the Carmans River and 79 in Quantuck Creek.
That is much higher than the levels in blue crab meat, which averaged from 0.9 to 3.1 micrograms per kilogram.
The same pattern was found with freshwater fish: average concentrations ranged from 6.1 to 29.4 micrograms per kilogram.
As a result, Suffolk's health department said people might wish to eat eels less often than the state advises.
Four meals per month for men over 15 and women over 50, and up to one meal per month for children younger than 15, based on polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, is what the New York State Department of Health advises, Suffolk said.
"However, the recent findings suggest that people may want to consider more restrictive consumption of eels from this area," Suffolk health officials added.
PFAS and fish consumption
Additional information is available at:
• Suffolk County Department of Health Services website on emerging contaminants: https://suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Health-Services/Environmental-Quality/Emerging-Contaminants
• New York State Department of Health “Advice on Eating Fish” website: https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/outdoors/fish/health_advisories/ https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/outdoors/fish/health_advisories/additional_information.htm
• U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry PFAS Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts200.pdf