Is it still safe to eat fish? Well, there’s good news and some bad news… 23



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While we’re all aware we need to limit the amount of large fish we eat due to the risk of contamination from mercury, this is not the only chemical we need to think about when we’re putting perch on the table.

A new global analysis of seafood from around the world found that fish from all the world’s oceans are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollutants, which are collectively known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These pollutants included ‘legacy’ chemicals, such as DDT and mercury, as well as newer industrial chemicals, such as flame retardants and coolants.

“Based on the best data collected from across the globe, we can say that POPs can be anywhere and in any species of marine fish,” said biologist Stuart Sandin from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

It’s not all bad news, however, by comparing studies from 1969 to 2012, the researchers observed that concentrations of these chemicals have been consistently dropping over the three decades, implying that the global community has responded well to global calls-to-action to limit the release of potentially harmful chemicals into the environment, the Stockholm Convention for example.

The concentrations of POPs found in fish meat were variable by as much as 1000-fold, but overall the observation is that concentrations have decreased 15-30 percent per decade.

“This means that the typical fish that you consume today can have approximately 50 percent of the concentration of most POPs when compared to the same fish eaten by your parents at your age,” said the lead author of the study.

The researchers found that the average levels of contaminants were at or below the standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) concentrations were at the EPA threshold for occasional human consumption, while concentrations of DDT were consistently much lower than the established threshold.

The authors caution that although pollutant concentrations in marine fish are steadily declining, they still remain quite high, and that understanding the cumulative effects of numerous exposures to pollutants in seafood is necessary to determine the specific risk to consumers.

Do you eat fish regularly? Do you worry about the chemicals found in them?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I eat fish at least 5 times a week and I am concerned about where it has come from. But I think the benefits still outweigh the negatives.

  2. Can the Australian fishing industry separate itself from these claims–if so take the high moral ground.

  3. Why have we got a European/English Redfin in the photo? Yes it has been introduced into Australia. Yes it is a good sporting fish. Yes it is a good feed. Yes some of the state governments are attempting to eradicate it.

    Should we be worried? No.

    Is it a bigger threat than being killed by a shark? Yes

    Should we worry about sharks? No. Last year there were 5 fatal shark attacks world wide and there were 437,000 murders.
    Anyway folks, have a good day. B|

    1 REPLY
  4. We pump our sewerage straight into the ocean, and farm and Industrial waste goes in the sea. The ocean is a sea of used plastics I am not surprised the found chemicals in the fish, I think would be more surprising if they didn’t !!.

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  5. I’ll continue to eat fish. Had barramundi yesterday. Frozen stuff came from China. Tasted great and no side effects.
    Our parents and grandparents ate meat and fruit and veggis that were never refrigerated. The meat hung in a hessian bag off the back verandah and the fruit and veggies were delivered by horse and cart and were covered in flies and bugs. And our water supply was from tanks that never got cleaned out. They just had a bit of kero poured in the top to stop the mozzies from breeding. Us kids all used the same bath water. We used a thunderbox toilet that stunk to high heaven.
    And guess what;

  6. I eat fish at least twice a week and will continue to do so. I always buy Australian or New Zealand seafood.

  7. Fresh wild caught Australian or NZ fish is best I reckon. Don’t go for any frozen Asian fish – the waters they come from may not be as pristine

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