I thought that I had done the best job I could avoiding toxins when I was pregnant and tried to have a green, organic, safe pregnancy. I ate organic whenever I could, I changed out my products, made all the changes and recommendations for avoiding dangerous chemicals that we recommend on our site. So, I should have protected my unborn child right? Well, the answer it turns out is yes…and no! Yes, I had reduced my body burden significantly and have a peace knowing I did all I could to give my daughter the best chance for good health. I knew that this is most important during pregnancy and while children are young and growing.
But I was in for a surprise when we went to our favorite sushi restaurant the other day. We had gone many times while I was pregnant, in fact almost weekly to have a date night. I knew that sushi was off the menu for me during pregnancy so I stuck with cooked salmon. I asked specifically when I was newly pregnant what kind of salmon they served and was told it was wild caught. I knew I was eating one of the safest if not the safest fish as far as toxins like PCBs and mercury as well as being beneficial by providing Omega 3s and other healthy fats for my baby.
I am not sure what caused me to ask again about their salmon, but I decided to ask a follow up question about where it was from, as wild caught salmon is from Alaska or the Pacific. I was told by the chef that it was from Scotland?? I had not heard of Scottish salmon. Did they also provide wild caught salmon? Well, the answer to that I later found out is a resounding NO. In fact, when I got home and started researching Scottish salmon I immediately found tons of articles about the extreme dangers and controversy surrounding this fish. Apparently, this is a farm-raised fish, not wild caught. A group of scientists from the University of Indiana had completed a study on this type of salmon in 2004 and found that it had TEN TIMES the amount of dioxins and PCBs than Pacific salmon. It was recommended that people limit consumption to 2 ounces a month and that women and girls avoid it completely, particulary women of child-bearing age and pregnant women. There was NO SAFE LEVEL of consumption of this kind of salmon for anyone. The EU (European Union) disputes this claim and states the benefits outweigh the risks. But why would you eat salmon that has risks when you can eat Pacific salmon and have the benefits without the risks? I was devastated to know that not only had I not provided the great benefit of a healthy fish to my unborn child, but I had been consuming what many researchers consider the most toxic fish on the market.
Here is an overview of what contaminants are found in this type of fish:
PCBs are chemicals that are so toxic that they were banned in the 1970s, however they persist in the environment still today. They enter the body primarily through food (the salmon are fattened with food that is polluted with high levels of PCBs) and these chemicals are difficult if not impossible to eliminate from the environment and your body. These toxins are linked to cancer and “impaired fetal brain development” (1). PCBs are transferred to your child in the womb while you are pregnant as well as during breastfeeding. When you ingest PCBs at any point in your life they will accumulate in your body. This is not a toxin to just be avoided while pregnant…it is important t”Scottish and Irish farmed salmon were found to have the highest levels of PCBs of all Salmon tested” EWG 2003. The Environmental Working Group goes on to state that “800,000 US adults eat enough PCBs in farm raised salmon to exceed allowable lifetime cancer risk 100 times over”! (1)
Other contaminants: http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/pr250404.shtml
So what is the lesson learned? It is important to ask questions when eating food while you are out..and make sure you are asking the right questions! Be educated and informed about the safest conventional foods. Also, avoid the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables, only eat wild caught salmon, and try to avoid non-organic meats and dairy. Stick with lots of vegetables and salads and Pacific salmon when eating out. If the meal comes with a dirty dozen fruit or vegetable, ask for it to not be included. Avoid oils as they are almost always genetically modified corn, canola or soybeans oils. Eat clean and simple meals. It is important to know what is in your food in order to have a safe and healthy pregnancy and baby.
(1) “PCBs – Cancer Causing Toxic Chemical in Farmed Salmon.”Natural Organic Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2010. <http://www.health-report.co.uk/pcb-toxic-chemical-farmed-salmon.html>.
“Scottish salmon safe to eat, says EU.” Food Ingredients & Food Science – Additives, Flavours, Starch. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2010. <http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Scottish-salmon-safe-to-eat-says-EU>.
Highfield, Roger. “Scottish farmed salmon ‘is full of cancer toxins’ – Telegraph.”Telegraph.co.uk – Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2010. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3317547/Scottish-farmed-salmon-is-full-of-cancer-toxins.html>.
“The Salmon Farm Monitor.”The Salmon Farm Monitor. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2010. <http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/pr250404.shtml>.
contrast., & had, w. s. (n.d.). Farmed Salmon Only Once Every 2 Months To Be Safe Cancer Warning Over Scottish Farmed Fish. Jeff Rense Program . Retrieved December 1, 2010, from <http://www.rense.com/general47/only.htm>