Sunday, December 15, 2013


Wild-caught fish - whether from the ocean, rivers or lakes, are often touted as one of the healthiest foods to eat. But unfortunately, we are making them less safe. PCBs and other toxic cancer-causing chemicals are entering our waterways. They get into the fish, and when we eat the fish, they can get into us. Your facial scrubs and even your toothpaste could be playing a role in all this.

Today the New York Times had an article on this problem. It focused on the Great Lakes area in the United States. But similar contamination is also occurring elsewhere. Scientists have found that small plastic particles that are used in our toiletries, such as facial scrubs and toothpaste among others, are not being removed by water treatment plants. The big manufacturers such as Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble and Unilever are aware of the impact their products are having and are supposedly phasing out the use of small plastic beads. This “phasing out” will unfortunately take years.

Some cosmetics, such as those of Burt’s Bees and St. Ives (actually, a Unilever brand) have always used natural alternatives such as nut shells (walnut and pecan), oat kernel flower and jojoba beads. But they’re the minority.

So what do you do if you like to eat fish but want to avoid such nasty chemicals like PCBs? The Safe Food Handbook: How to Make Smart Choices about Risky Food discusses the topic in the chapter on Fish and Shellfish, actually, with special attention to the Great Lakes area and other very polluted waterways such as the San Francisco Bay. What it suggests that “smart eaters” do is to generally avoid the larger, older fish, and fish that eat other smaller fish.

Incidentally, as the book also notes, some studies have found farmed salmon to have the highest concentrations of PCBs among fish. But an occasional meal is not likely to hurt you, so there is no need to stress out if you just had farmed salmon and a salad for your lunch. But don't eat such potentially PCB-contaminated fish all the time.

Also, you may want to be more environmentally conscious about the cosmetics and toothpaste you buy.

To your good health,


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