July 27, 2020


Milk from dairy farm in Maine, US, found to have highest level of contamination recorded


Harmful levels of a substance known as a "forever chemical" were discovered in milk obtained from a dairy farm in Central Maine, the United States, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The level were 60 to 150 times higher than health standards, sparking a state investigation and raising new concerns about  polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination on farms.

The levels of contamination in the farm's milk are the highest, by far, documented in Maine for an agricultural setting and, at 32,200 parts per trillion, potentially the highest ever recorded in milk in the country.

In fact, samples collected from the unnamed farm had 23 times as much PFAS – industrial compounds linked to cancer and other health problems – as were found at a York County dairy that drew national attention to the issue of potentially contaminated milk.

"They were very startling and very concerning for this individual farm, and certainly not something that we were expecting," said Nancy McBrady, director of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources.

Despite this recent development, consumers were not at risk from the contaminated milk as it was diluted following mixing with milk from other farms at the processing plant, according to McBrady and other officials with the department.

The department also said the farm has stopped selling milk and beef, but it did not identify the farm or the processor in a public statement about the contamination.

"We require time to first properly notify the entities involved," a department official, Shannon Ayotte, said in an email.

Investigators are now looking for sources of the contamination, potentially including sludge used as fertiliser or firefighting foam laced with chemicals.

Tests in June and July revealed levels of the chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, that ranged from 12,700 to 32,200 parts per trillion at the central Maine farm. That higher figure is 153 times above the 210 parts per trillion cutoff for when milk can no longer be sold commercially in Maine.

McBrady said the farm was a small operation with 40 to 50 milking cows, meaning its contribution to the overall milk supply was also small.

- Portland Press Herald