Toxic Seafood: Be Careful What You Eat

Toxic Seafood: Be Careful What You Eat

There seems to be toxic residue in just about everything we eat these days and that is why it is even more important to be wary of your food choices. If you are a fan of seafood you may want to rethink some items on the menu as they may be carrying high amounts of heavy metals or other toxins which, over time, can wreak havoc on your system.

In a study by Indian researchers published in The Open Nutraceuticals Journal (2010) titled, ‘The Effects of Toxic Metals On Human Health’, heavy metal detection is showing to be a serious health threat,

“Conclusively, based on experimental studies, the advances of toxicology has improved our knowledge about human exposure to toxic elements (metals and metalloids) and their health effects, such as developmental retardation, several types of cancer, kidney damage, endocrine disruption, immunological, neurological effects and other disorders.”

Murky Mercury and Friends

When you hear the word mercury you may think of the closest planet to the sun or liquid silver used in teeth fillings and thermometers. Well, it turns out that high concentrations of mercury and other heavy metals are being found in seafood which pose a toxic threat to all living things. Mercury, however, seems to be the most prevalent.

The Huffington Post reported in 2012 that,

“The Biodiversity Research Institute and an international coalition of environmental campaign groups called the Zero Mercury Working Group, say that mercury contamination of seafood is not only on the rise across the globe, but that “smaller traces of the toxic metal may be enough to cause restricted brain development or other health problems for humans who eat them.”

Public interest group Columbia Riverkeeper cites results from a 2014 study that shows toxicity on a local level,

“Shad caught near Bonneville dam contained endocrine disrupting flame retardants and heavy metals.”

Best Choices

Essentially it is best to eat smaller seafood as it was found that those who ate larger game like shark or tuna had higher mercury levels in their blood. Below are the recommended best choices or non-choices when it comes to mercury and other heavy metal contaminated seafood.

Low mercury seafood:

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Herring
  • Sardines

High mercury seafood:

  • Bluefin tuna
  • Walleye
  • King mackerel
  • Marlin

Seafood that should be eaten with caution:

  • Orange roughy
  • Chilean sea bass
  • Blue crab
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Spotted seatrout
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Grouper
  • Snapper
  • Halibut
  • Sable fish
  • Albacore
  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Big Eye tuna
  • Bluefish

Farm Raised vs. Wild Caught 

Beyond heavy metals, there are other residual pollutant effects on marine life with many exhibiting polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and other pesticide tainted contamination. Even though PCB’s were banned in 1976, they are still showing up in the food chain as a result of being released into the environment at toxic waste sites like fish farms.

Cornell University researchers found that, “levels of pesticides, dioxins, PCBs and other contaminants were up to 10 times higher in farmed salmon than in wild Pacific salmon.”

This has sparked more interest in whether farm raised or wild caught seafood is better. It turns out that farm raised seafood may be more dangerous as the potential issues from farming practices seem to mount which include: artificial colors, antibiotics, size increasing hormones, water pesticides, environmental waste threats and more chances of toxic residue.

Although more expensive, purchasing natural choices such as wild caught Alaskan salmon or frozen wild caught salmon may be the best bet. It is important to note however that farm raised seafood is continuing to advance in safety as more tweaks are made to the process.

Nowadays you can’t be too careful with your food choices and when it comes to seafood, erring on the side of caution is always best. Stick to wild caught, small game seafood and if farm raised make sure they are labeled with “no hormones, additives, etc.”