Think Your Fish is Safe – Scientists Just Had a Disturbing Revelation

By Jason Erickson

New Chemical Pollution Study Highlights Importance of Where Fish is Sourced

While there have been various advisories over the years against eating tuna – from moral to health related – a new study might be zeroing in on an even greater problem than what has been addressed so far.

The consumption of fish in general is gaining increased attention due primarily to its mercury content, as well as for potentially accumulating microplastics that have entered the ecosystem. Combined with the new possibility of unknowingly consuming genetically engineered salmon, and the once-perceived no-brainer of eating fish to improve one’s health is now in doubt.

A disturbing new study of yellowfin tuna by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego suggests a multitude of problems that are likely being overlooked by consumers as well as regulatory agencies. Researchers collected 117 samples of tuna from around the world and quickly realized that the location of the samples made a drastic difference in pollution levels … 36 times greater, in fact.

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At issue are Persistent Organic Pollutants – the remnants from pesticides, industrial chemicals, and many previously banned substances that are still showing up decades after their production was terminated. Tuna samples collected from the industrialized northeast Pacific and northeast Atlantic sections showed far more elevated levels than in other areas. While this certainly might seem obvious, there are currently no guidelines for advising consumers about the source of the fish they are eating. Even worse, current guidelines for the chemicals themselves contain serious information gaps:

Most of the 117 tuna caught around the world analyzed in the study would be considered safe under current consumption guidelines, the researchers said. However, they noted that 90 percent of the tuna captured in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and more than 60 percent of those caught in the Gulf of Mexico contained pollutant levels that would have triggered health advisories for regular consumers and people at risk, including pregnant and nursing women or people with compromised immune systems.

The authors also found levels of a specific subset of these pollutants that is known to impair the human body’s defense system against chemicals and toxins. This group of pollutants is known as Transporter Inhibiting Compounds (TICs). Surprisingly, TICs were present in all tuna with the highest levels again detected in the most contaminated sites.

“Surprisingly, only a few types of pollutants detected in tuna had regulatory information available to calculate meal recommendations,” said Scripps postdoctoral researcher Sascha Nicklisch, who led the study. “An important issue raised by the study is how to guide science and policy on possible hazards associated with these chemicals in our food sources.”

Moreover, their findings called into question the current prevailing wisdom that purely the fat content of the fish is a prime factor in the likelihood of higher concentrations of pollutants:

Nicklisch’s team found that the level of pollutants was often more closely correlated with the location where the fish were caught rather than the amount of fat in the fish. While the researchers could not establish a clear relationship, their data shows that the fat content in itself is not always a sufficient predictor of the overall pollutant load of fish.

Clearly, this was a limited study conducted on only one type of fish, but it would appear that key indicators are there for wider studies to be done. The fact that the best scientific minds are still calculating the damage done to our ecosystem and human health is disconcerting, but hopefully studies like this one will lead to a serious revision of best practices when bringing food to our tables.


Also Read: Want to Eat Fish That’s Truly Good for You? Here Are Some Guidelines to Reeling One In

Jason Erickson writes for This article (New Chemical Pollution Study Highlights Importance of Where Fish is Sourced) may be republished in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

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