News Release

NYT Minimizing “Forever Chemicals” Threat to Fish and Military Pollution


The New York Times Magazine just published a lengthy piece “‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Everywhere. What Are They Doing to Us?” which focuses on the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.

PAT ELDER,, @militarypoisons

Elder is the founder of the Maryland-based Military Poisons and has written extensively on PFAS and other toxins.

He commented on the New York Times piece: “It’s good that there’s some mainstream attention to this undercovered issue, but there are serious problems with how it’s addressed. A quick search shows me Faroe Islanders eat mostly haddock, plaice, halibut, herring, and shrimp. The European Food Safety Authority says up to 86 percent of the PFAS [Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances] in our bodies are from the food we eat, especially the fish.

“The word ‘fish’ is mentioned three times in the article while ‘drinking water’ or ‘tap water’ is mentioned 20 times. Consider this passage: ‘Among the groups most likely to be exposed to PFAS in their drinking water are those in low-income communities or who live near military or industrial sites. Subsistence fishing and hunting, which many rural and Indigenous people rely on, increases that risk.’

“This is not just about indigenous and rural folks. It’s about the state protecting the financial interests of several industries, from sport fishing to tourism to the restaurant industry — at the expense of public health.

“The NYT has this backward. I tested tap water from WSSC [Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission] in Clinton, Maryland close to Joint Base Andrews and found PFAS levels in the single digits while the MDE [Maryland Department of the Environment] tested fish in Clinton in Piscataway Creek and found 94,200 ppt of PFOS — just one of many compounds in the filet of a largemouth bass. One bite of this popular sportfish fish dwarfs the amount of the carcinogens consumed in a year of drinking water. We have documented fish near military bases with 10 million parts per trillion of these toxins while the EPA says it plans to eventually regulate a handful of these compounds in drinking water in the single digits.

“The article only mentions the military twice. Where I live in this small area known as southern Maryland, Joint Base Andrews, Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, The Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the Webster Field Annex of the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, the Naval Research Laboratory’s Chesapeake Bay Detachment, and the Naval Academy in Annapolis have severely contaminated the waterways in Maryland, including the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay where the crabs, oysters, and fish are dangerous to eat because of their high concentrations of a host of PFAS compounds. …

“Analysis by the lab taken from the beach just near my home shows levels at 6,449 ppt for total PFAS — levels in the single digits may multiply a thousand times in the filet of fish. I’ll be on a 20-city tour in Japan from Sept 10 to Oct 8. In Japan there is great strife over the American and Japanese interpretations of the Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. The Japanese are not allowed on U.S. bases to confirm evidence of the carcinogens while the U.S. government deflects questions and denies liability.”