Flame retardants found in salmon

August 11, 2004 in Food Safety, Nutrition Topics in the News

Flame retardants found in salmon

Farmed salmon, already found to carry higher levels than wild salmon of chemicals such as PCBs, may also contain higher levels of flame retardants, environmental researchers said this week.

However, some wild salmon also have high levels of the chemicals in their flesh and some wild Chinook have the highest levels of all, the team at Indiana University reported.

The researchers said they tested salmon meat for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are used widely as flame-retardant additives in electronics and furniture. Like PCBs and dioxin, they can build up in the flesh of animals and are especially high in carnivores.

The team measured PBDEs in 700 samples of farmed and wild salmon from around the world. The same team reported in January 2004 that they found high levels of chemicals in farmed salmon and blamed the "salmon chow" fed to the fish.

Salmon chow is a mixture of ground-up fish and oil fed to farm-raised salmon and scientists think it may be more likely to contain contaminated fish than the variety of foods eaten by wild salmon.

There is disagreement over whether PBDEs are dangerous.

PCBs can cause cancer and reproductive, neurological and developmental defects.

The European Union banned two of the three most common PBDE products this year, and the state of California has banned two types of PBDEs beginning in 2008. Levels found in people's bodies are rising steadily.

Beginning next month, U.S. supermarkets will be required to put labels on salmon telling whether the fish is farmed or wild.

Health experts and the U.S. and Canadian governments continue to recommend that people eat fatty fish such as salmon because of the high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds are key for brain and eye development and can lower the risk of heart disease.

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