New research finds that while fish populations around the globe are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollutants, the concentration of the pollutants has been steadily dropping over the last 30 years.
Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego completed a global analysis of seafood by analyzing hundreds of peer-reviewed articles published from 1969-2012. They were studying persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that include older chemicals like DDT and mercury, as well as newer chemicals like flame retardants and coolants.
POPs are found in fish from every ocean, but the concentrations are highly variable and decreasing over time. The average concentration of POPs in fish dropped by about 15-30 percent per decade.
“This means that the typical fish that you consume today can have approximately 50 percent of the concentration of most POPs when compared to the same fish eaten by your parents at your age,” Scripps researcher Lindsay Bonito, the lead author of the study, explained in a news release.
And don’t worry — the average levels of contaminants in the “consumable meat” of fish were at or below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health standards. The only exception is mercury, which occasionally reaches the threshold for human consumption. Many sustainable seafood consumer guides have warnings about species more likely to contain high levels of mercury, so just check those15 if you’re ever concerned.
Overall, the results suggest that the public has responded to “calls-to-action…to limit the release of potentially harmful chemicals in the environment,” but more research is needed to understand the full impact of consistent exposure to pollutants in seafood.
To learn more
- Read the Scripps news release: Study Finds Toxic Pollutants in Fish Across the World’s Oceans
- Read the full study here: Evaluation of the global impacts of mitigation on persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutants in marine fish
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