Advisory warns about eating fish from Lake Quinsigamond


Advisory warns about eating fish from Lake Quinsigamond
A drone view of Lake Quinsigamond. (Photo/Ben Domaingue)

SHREWSBURY – Given inflation’s impact on the cost of seafood, you might be thinking about saving a few dollars by occasionally catching dinner yourself in the waters of Lake Quinsigamond.

Hold that thought.

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) issued an advisory that recommended residents significantly limit the amount of fish they eat from 13 freshwater sources in Massachusetts, including Lake Quinsigamond.

According to the advisory, recent testing of fish pulled from these bodies of water has found the levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are well above MDPH-recommended levels for regular consumption.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances “are a group of (manmade) chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Fluoropolymer coatings can be in a variety of products.”

The other bodies are located in Ashland, Chicopee, Natick, Winchendon, Gardner, Plymouth, Milton, Saugus, Westfield, Concord, Douglas and Taunton. 

It should be noted that in addition to testing the fish, the MDPH also sampled surface water at these locations, and PFAS was not found at problematic levels. That means those ponds and lakes are safe for swimming or any other recreational activities.

According to the MDPH, exposure to certain PFAS can negatively impact liver and kidney function, the immune system, and cause changes in thyroid hormone and cholesterol levels. In addition, PFAS exposure has been found, in some cases, to cause developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy.

In its announcement, the MDPH said it had chosen certain bodies of water to be tested because they were popular locations for swimming and fishing.

The MDPH advisory does not outright ban eating fish caught at any of the 13 individual locations. However, it does provide guidelines as to the amount of fish from each location that can be eaten safely.

In the case of Lake Quinsigamond, the MDPH is recommending no more than one meal of fish from the lake every six months for children 12 and under, women who are or might become pregnant and breastfeeding women, and no more than one meal of fish from the lake every two months for all other people.

These recommendations only apply to fish native to these bodies of water. Fish that are imported (stocked) are not included in the recommendations. Stocked fish are raised in hatcheries and do not spend enough time in the bodies of water to become contaminated.

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