The Truth About Farmed Salmon, PCBs, and Your Health

Many people are concerned about the possible adverse health effects of eating farmed salmon; Studies have shown that farmed salmon can contain large amounts of toxic chemicals that, when ingested over a long period of time, can harm your health. Here we look at the facts. Farmed salmon, unlike wild Alaskan salmon, are farmed and raised in a confined space. They contain more fat than wild salmon, which means that their total omega-3 fatty acid content is similar to that of wild fish; the difference, however, is that that extra fat is contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and more than 100 other contaminants, including toxic pesticides. Those who ingest farmed salmon on a regular basis may be risking their health, exceeding government limits for these types of contaminants. Potential dangers include fetal brain damage, immune system damage, and cancer.

Farmed salmon included about 22% of all seafood retail sales; many consumers eat salmon for its cardiovascular benefits. What they don’t know is that farm-raised salmon contains large amounts of PCBs. PCBs are known to cause cancer and were in fact banned in the United States in 1976. Farmed salmon have been shown to accumulate dangerous amounts of PCBs due to the fishmeal they are fed with.

Additionally, salmon farms are breeding grounds for parasitic sea lice, which infect young salmon and feed on their blood and scales. In fish farms, a high concentration of fish is kept in a small, confined area, increasing sea lice growth to abnormally high numbers. This also puts wild salmon at risk, as these sea lice are likely to escape and infect wild fish. Also, treating sea lice with chemicals can be harmful to other sea creatures and may not even reduce lice levels enough to protect wild Alaskan salmon.

Wild Alaskan salmon feed on sea fish, which are lower in pollutants and fat. They are much healthier than their farm counterparts, which should be consumed only once a month, if at all. Wild-caught fish are not only healthier for humans, but they are also better for the environment. The next time you choose to eat salmon, opt for wild Alaskan salmon.

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