"Even the cleanest of the farmed salmon shouldn't be eaten more than once or twice a month. We're not telling people not to eat salmon. We're trying to tell people what fish are healthy to eat. Wild salmon -- both fresh, frozen and canned -- is very safe.".. Dr. David Carpenter

9:02/01. SCIENCE STUDY FINDS FARMED SALMON WITH 10 FOLD INCREASE IN PCBS AND OTHER TOXINS OVER THEIR WILD COUNTERPARTS: In the first comprehensive study comparing the amounts of toxins, including PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls], dioxin, toxaphene and dieldrin found in salmon, scientists found farmed fish contained on average 10 times more of these toxins than their wild counterparts. The results of the study, "Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon" was published in the 9 January issue of Science (pp.226-229) (http://www.sciencemag.org), the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). There were three earlier studies showing similar results, including one by the Environmental Working Group (see Sublegals, 8:09/03; 8:05/01; 6:14/04), but these were criticized because of their small sample size. This study tested approximately 700 farmed and wild salmon - approximately 2 metric tons - collected from around the world. A copy of the Science study is on the web at: http://www.pewtrusts.com/pdf/salmon_study.pdf.

The $2.4 million study, conducted by researchers at four universities, including Cornell University, the University of Indiana at Bloomington and an analytical lab, found farmed salmon from Scotland with the highest levels of PCBs, while the farmed fish from Chile have the lowest PCB level. The average PCB level in farmed salmon was 37 parts per billion, compared with the average level of 4.8 parts per billion in wild salmon. Overall, combining all the chemicals, levels measured more than ten times as high as in farmed fish. The study focused on organochlorine contaminants. Researchers examined 50 chemicals, with an emphasis on PCBs, once used in transformers; dioxins, a product of combustion; and the banned pesticides dieldrin and toxaphene. It did not look at other toxics such as methylmercury because, according to the researchers, their preliminary study "showed no significant differences in methylmercury levels between farmed and wild salmon." There was no mention in the study of other toxics, such as malachite green, used to treat sea lice in farmed fish operations (see Sublegals, 9:01/02), presumably because this chemical is unique to aquaculture operations. The difference in the toxin levels between the fish is probably attributable to diet. "Wild salmon eat krill, shrimp, anchovies and smaller fish, and migrate thousands of miles in the ocean, away from polluted city and farm runoff. Farmed salmon are fed a concentrated feed high in fish oils and fishmeal made from smaller fish that may contain pollutants. Salmon, a relatively oily, fatty fish, can accumulate the PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and pesticides from the feed, and can also ingest them as they grow in enclosed net pens in coastal areas and estuaries," said the 9 January San Francisco Chronicle reporting on the study.

The differences between the high PCB levels in the Scottish and Norwegian farmed salmon with lower levels in Chilean farmed salmon comes as no surprise and seems to confirm the feed as the culprit. The North Sea, where much of the fish is harvested to make the salmon feed, has suffered decades of industrial pollution, including the discharge of PCBs from its rivers. (Chilean salmon, however, have been found to have much higher levels of malachite green than their European counterparts due to lax enforcement of environmental regulations in Chile). Veterinarians have warned, for example, against giving pets fish oil supplements made from North Sea fish because of high levels of PCBs. The North Sea is not the only area impacted, the Hudson River has likewise been seriously polluted by PCBs, forcing the closure of its commercial shad fishery, and Puget Sound is believed to have high levels that have affected Orcas in those waters. Nevertheless, unlike the myriad of other problems caused by salmon farming, including pollution, escapes, and the spread of disease to wild fish (see the January issue of Fishermen's News, "Fish Farmers and Fishermen - What Fish Would Jesus Eat?", pp. 14-18; on the web at:
http://www.pcffa.org/fn-jan04.htm) the contaminant problem with farmed salmon could be remedied by a change in feed sources. "What is particularly egregious about all of this is the billion dollar farmed salmon industry has known about the contaminant problem for some time and has chosen to neither change its feed nor warn consumers," said PCFFA Executive Director Zeke Grader. "They seem to think it's okay to poison the environment and, apparently, people."

"The take-home message is you should limit your consumption of farmed salmon," Dr. David Carpenter, a professor of environmental health and toxicology at the State University of New York at Albany, and one of the study's authors, told the Oregonian. "You should continue to eat fish, but you should carefully choose the fish you eat." Carpenter, a member of a National Academy of Sciences committee on dioxin-like compounds in the food supply went on to say, "I would not feed my little girl farmed salmon at all. I would certainly feed her wild salmon, recognizing there are still some of these contaminants present. The point is you need to pay attention to what you eat."

For more information, see the 9 January Jane Kay San Francisco Chronicle article at:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/01/09/MNG6C46KRV1.DTL; the 9 January Oregonian at: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/front_page/1073653495242730.xml; the 9 January Seattle Post-Intelligencer at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/155971_salmon09.html; the 9 January Los Angeles Times at: http://www.latimes.com/la-me-salmon9jan09,1,6283045.story; the 9 January Contra Costa Times at: http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/living/health/7669416.htm; the New York Times at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/09/science/09SALM.html?pagewanted=all; the Associated Press article at: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3906337/; the 8 January British Broadcasting Company (BBC) report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3380735.stm; the 9 January Washington Post at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A733-2004Jan8.html; the 9 January Anchorage Daily-News at: http://www.adn.com/front/story/4596069p-4565709c.html; the 9 January Portland Press Herald at: http://www.pressherald.com/news/state/040109salmonpollut.shtml; the 9 January Boston Globe at: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2004/01/09/study_sees_toxins_in_farmed_salmon; the 9 January issue of Nature at: http://www.nature.com/nsu/040105/040105-10.html; and Dr. Andrew Weil's "Health Question" at: http://www.drweil.com/app/cda/drw_cda.html-command=TodayQA-pt=Question-quest.

9:02/02. MORE ABOUT PCBS: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), an industrial chemical used as an insulation material - mostly in electrical transformers - until found to be a carcinogen and banned by the U.S. Government in 1977, are a persistent problem in waterways near major industrial areas. These waterways include the North Sea (see 9:02/01 above); the Hudson River (see Sublegals, 4:23/10; 4:06/20, 4:05/11); Puget Sound (see Sublegals, 8:21/04; 6:25/04); at industrial landfills adjacent to the Columbia River (see Sublegals, 5:12/15); and in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where resident Largemouth bass, white catfish and black bullhead have been contaminated (see Sublegals, 2:26/13). Along with mercury, dioxin, DDT (now U.S. banned) and other pesticides, along with steroids and hormones from municipal wastewater and runoff from animal feedlots (see Sublegals 8:22/09), the presence of PCBs in some waterways and certain fish calls for action by the fishing industry.

These environmental pollutants affect fish health and may make fish unsafe to market or, at least, promote as a health food. "What's needed is an initiative from fishermen calling for the prevention of these chemicals from entering the environment, to clean up areas that are polluted and, finally, to monitor and disclose what contaminants might be found in fish to be able to help consumers make the healthiest choices," said PCFFA President Pietro Parravano. Parravano cited the work of those who took on the pollution issues of the Hudson, including PCBs, to force a clean-up of that river - fisherman John Cronin, author Robert Boyle, attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., singer Pete Seeger, and the Natural Resources Defense Council's John Adams - as an example of what people can do to save waterways.

To learn more about PCB impacts, see the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol. 112, No.1), a journal of the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Sciences, at:

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