Quantcast

Alarming Levels of Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found in Columbia River Fish

The mighty Columbia River rolls down from the Canadian rockies to form the border between Oregon and Washington State. Rolling along in its waters are the fish that have been the backbone of the region's life for countless centuries.

Fisherman Bob Rees with a sturgeon from the Lower Columbia River. That fish may not be safe to eat. Photo credit: Columbia Riverkeeper

These days the fish are carrying some things the Native tribes of the region didn't have to worry about back then: high levels of cancer-causing PCBs, heavy metals like mercury and arsenic and toxic flame retardants, chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine and reproductive systems. That's according to Columbia Riverkeeper, which recently announced phase 2 of its “Is Your Fish Toxic?” study, measuring toxic pollution in five different fish intended for  human consumption. Obviously the answer is "yes."

“Fish advisories are not enough," said Columbia Riverkeeper's water quality director Lorri Epstein. We need immediate reduction and prevention of toxic pollution entering our river to protect the health of our communities."

Today, immigrant populations, especially low-income ones, have joined the tribal peoples in depending on the largesse of the river for their food. Columbia Riverkeeper's interviews with these populations found that they are especially at risk from unsafe levels of toxic pollution because of their higher fisher consumption and the ways they prepare the fish. They found, for instance that Cambodian-Americans might put the whole fish, including internal organs skin, head and tail into a soup or stew, increasing the level of exposure to unhealthy chemicals. Some cultures use fish as the mainstay of their meals, receiving dose after dose of contaminants.

“The fact that some Columbia River fish are unsafe to feed your family presents a real environmental justice issue,” said Epstein. “Posting warning signs is not the answer. Many people are unaware of the warnings or will continue to eat fish due to cultural and economic reasons. The top priority must be cleaning up our rivers. Our data show extremely high levels of toxic contaminants in these fish, and we need to consider the individual stories and families interwoven with the results of this scientific data.”

Among other things, Columbia Riverkeeper's study found walleye that contained 175 times the PCB deemed safe for unrestricted consumption by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), shad that contained endocrine-disrupting flame retardants and heavy metals and carp with PCBs 35 times the U.S. EPA limit and mercury 3.5 times the limit as well as flame retardants and other heavy metals. It also found high levels of mercury and flame retardants on steelhead and shad.

The new study from Columbia Riverkeeper confirms previous studies done by the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey that found similar high, unsafe levels of flame retardants, PCBs and mercury, as well as the now-banned pesticide DDT, in widely consumed food fish.

 YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Seafood Mercury Levels Trigger Federal Lawsuit Against FDA

Even the FDA Doesn't Know What Chemicals Are in Your Food

Hip Hop Icon Macklemore Joins 'A River for All' Campaign

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pixabay

By Claire L. Jarvis

A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less