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Aircraft Chemical Found in Great Lakes Fish

Aircraft Chemical Found in Great Lakes Fish

Researchers from Environment Canada discovered a chemical used in aircraft fluids in walleye and lake trout. (Photo courtesy of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division)

Host: Rebecca Williams
Show date: 05/05/2011

Summary:
New research finds that fish in the Great Lakes are contaminated with a chemical used in aircraft hydraulic fluids. Julie Grant reports:

Researcher Amila DeSilva works for Environment Canada, which is like the EPA in the U.S.

She says there have been studies on a number of perflourinated chemicals. They’re used to make textiles, upholstery, paper, and many other things. Studies have shown these types of chemicals can have toxic effects in humans. But not much is known about a chemical she calls PFECHS. I’ll let her pronounce the full name:

DeSilva: “Perfluoroethylcyclohexanesulfonate.”

DeSilva says no one has really studied whether its toxic. She wanted to see if PFECHS was in the environment, so she and her colleagues sampled water and fish in the Great Lakes, specifically lake trout and walleye:

“We were really, really surprised to find it in fish. Because, just based on the structure and our chemical intuition we thought, ‘okay, it would be more likely to be in water than in fish’ so when we found it in fish, when you find anything in fish, it’s a whole other ballgame because humans consume fish.”

DeSilva says other perflourinated acids are endocrine disruptors. That means they create hormone imbalances in humans, and they have other toxic effects. She says once these chemicals are released into the environment they don’t degrade, they just build up. That’s why use of some chemicals in this class is highly restricted in the U.S. and Canada.



Read an abstract of the Great Lakes fish study

A five-part Environment Report series on flame retardants


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