Since the smell test doesn't really cut it, we decided to investigate the chemicals in seafood that you might not know about. We all know that mercury is often found in fish and are careful about our mercury consumption but did you know about the presence of pesticides, flame retardants or arsenic in the world's seafood?
2.6 billion people obtain 20 percent of their animal protein from eating seafood. Contaminants leak into the world's water supplies from industrial and municipal waste, storm water runoff and even agricultural practices causing serious environmental, animal and human health issues.
1. PBDEs: Flame Retardants
PBDEs, a common flame retardant, have been detected in various fish across the West Coast in the United States. A 2006 report from the Environmental Working Group uncovered the flame retardant in Washington rivers and lakes. From 1997 to 2003, levels of PBDEs (prolybrominated diphenyl ethers) doubled in San Francisco Bay fish, such as striped bass and halibut. PBDEs are often used in electronics, furniture, carpets and textiles. The chemicals are traceable in rivers, estuaries, oceans, house dust and water.
2. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
While PCBs were outlawed from manufacturing in 1977, PCBs continue to reside in the nation’s waters. They collect in sediments at the bottoms of rivers, lakes, streams and along coastlines. These highly toxic persistent organic pollutants infiltrate water systems and contaminate wild fish populations accumulating in the fatty tissue of the fish. The industrial chemical is also found in farmed fish. Striped bass, sturgeon, and shad are all fishes with dangerous traces of PCBs.
3. Chlorinated Dioxins
High levels of chlorinated dioxins, an industrial chemical and known carcinogen, are often detected in wild and farmed fish populations and in most animal based proteins in the average American diet: eggs, milk, butter, turkey, beef and pork. The Environmental Defense Fund advises limiting the intake of farmed or Atlantic salmon because of the elevated dioxin rate.
4. DDT: Pesticides
DDT, one of the most infamous pesticides, has infiltrated the aquatic foodchain, impacting most fish, crayfish, and shrimp populations. In 1952, the United States Department of Agriculture celebrated the use of DDT because of its "cost, ease of handling, safety to humans, effectiveness in destroying the pest, and safety to wildlife." In 1974, DDT was banned from use by the Environmental Protection Agency, however DDT residue remains
Amongst the chaos of the gulf oil spill recovery, one "solution" for contamination detection has been the smell test. With fishing permitted again in Louisiana, fishermen have begun to catch redfish, speckled trout and mullet. Oysters and blue crabs remain off-limits.
Coal ash combustion wastewater does not only disperse mercury but also arsenic, which causes detrimental harm to the environment, fish health, and a variety of human health problems such as liver poisoning, and liver and bladder cancers. With low water levels, arsenic levels rise as occurred in 2007 in Okeechobee, Florida (pictured).
In 2008, China’s reputation as the world’s largest fish importer was tarnished by one chemical: melamine. Melamine was often added to fish feed. This industrial chemical is also famous for tainting infant formula. Last month, the United Nations set a maximum level of melamine contamination in the world's food and infant formula.
About Oceanic Defense
We are an international non-profit organization with members in over 60 countries, spanning 6 continents with 1 mission; healthy aquatic ecosystems free from human abuse and neglect. Oceanic Defense teaches people to protect our oceans by acting responsibly as consumers and by making smart decisions in our daily lives. Whether we are buying groceries, commuting to work, planning a vacation or advocating within our own communities; each action we take or decision we make either helps or hurts our oceans. We empower people to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem and work together to protect our blue planet.
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