Farm-raised salmon poses increased
health risks for consumers
By Environmental Health Perspectives
Published May 4, 2005
It's been known that farmed salmon fish contains high
levels of PCBs and PBDEs. Now a study warns that farmed
salmon is also contaminated with dioxins, another cancer-causing
agent. Read on:
Consumption of farm-raised salmon poses greater health
risks from dioxin and dioxin-like compounds than does
the consumption of wild salmon, according to a study published
in the May 2005 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental
Dioxins, pollutants associated with numerous adverse
health effects (most notably cancer but also extending
to suppression of the immune system, learning disabilities,
increased risk of cardiovascular disease, impaired prostate
development, and endometriosis), have been reported to
be present at higher levels in farmed salmon, possibly
resulting from the levels of dioxin-like compounds (DLCs)
and other organic contaminants in the feed.
Although the study authors acknowledge recommendations
from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine
and the American Heart Associations that frequent consumption
of fish is beneficial, the authors suggest that the risk
of cancer and other health effects may outweigh the benefits
that some types of seafood offer. Women who become pregnant
may be at increased risk due to the effect of the toxicants
on developing fetuses.
To reduce the risk associated with consumption of most
farm-raised salmon based on the WHO’s guidelines, the
study recommends that consumers limit consumption to less
than 10 meals per month (based on one-half pound servings).
For salmon from northern European farms, meal frequencies
should be less than four meals per month. These consumption
rates assume that exposure to DLCs is from farmed salmon
only and does not account for exposure from other food
and environmental sources. When analyzed using the EPA
methods for dioxin risk assessment, the study concluded
that consumption of farmed Atlantic salmon must be even
Some limited food preparation practices might help to
reduce the risk of consumption of salmon, according to
sources cited in the study. The authors write that, "…removal
of skin (and associated fat, lateral line, and belly flap)
and some cooking methods do, in some cases, reduce contaminant
levels in the fish. However, the amount of contaminant
reduction is highly variable within species, among species,
and among contaminants."
Despite education efforts, particularly around the Great
Lakes, most consumers remain unaware of these best practices.
The authors "point to the urgent need for methods
that are consistent among national and international agencies
to develop consumption advice for contaminated fish".
The lead author of the study was Jeffery A. Foran of
the Midwest Center for Environmental Science and Public
Policy, Milwaukee. Other authors included David O. Carpenter,
M. Coreen Hamilton, Barbara A. Knuth, and Steven J. Schwager.
The research was initiated and supported by the Environmental
Division of the Pew Charitable Trusts. The article is
available free of charge at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2005/7626/7626.html.
EHP is published by the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. EHP is an Open Access journal.
More information is available online at http://www.ehponline.org/.
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